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U.S. Unprepared to Meet Housing Needs of Aging Americans: Report

SEP 2, 2014 1:04pm ET
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Housing for America's growing older population that needs to be affordable, physically accessible and close to support services "is in too short supply," according to a joint report from Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies and AARP Foundation.

High costs currently force a third of adults 50 and over to spend more than 30% of their income on housing, forcing them to cut back on food, health care and retirement savings, the report finds. At 37%, an even higher number of those 80 and over spend more than 30% of their income on housing.

Making things worse is much of the nation's housing inventory also lacks basic accessibility features for older people with disabilities or transportation and pedestrian friendly infrastructure for those who live in car-dependent suburban and rural areas. Also disconnects between housing programs and the health care system for those with disabilities or long-term care needs put many older adults "at risk of premature institutionalization."

Meanwhile, the number of Americans aged 50 and over is expected to increase to 132 million by 2030, up more than 70% compared to 2000, according to data by Housing America's "Older Adults-Meeting the Needs of an Aging Population."

Data show baby boomers who are now in their fifties but have lower incomes, wealth, homeownership rates and higher debt than previous generations are "of special concern" because they represent a large age group that may not be able to cover housing or health care costs in their retirement years.

Older homeowners, however, are in a better position than older renters, while an estimated 70% of those who reach the age of 65 will eventually need some form of long-term care. But the typical homeowner aged 65 and over can cover the costs of in-home assistance for nearly nine years, compared to only two months for the typical renter.

And while it is ultimately up to individuals and their families to plan for future housing needs, Chris Herbert, acting managing director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies, said in a press release, "Recognizing the implications of this profound demographic shift and taking immediate steps to address these issues is vital to our national standard of living" that suggests policy makers at all levels of government need to address these issues.

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