Millions of elderly households live in housing that costs too much, is in substandard condition, or fails to accommodate their physical disabilities and needs for assistance. Although, on average, older Americans today are among the best housed of all age groups, a significant minority has serious housing problems. For nearly 40 years, the Federal Government has worked to improve the supply and affordability of safe, decent rental housing for elderly households. A multifaceted approach to elderly housing needs has evolved, combining public housing and subsidies for privately owned units, tenant-based rental assistance, and supportive services to enrich these living environments. The need for such affordable housing, however, is far greater than the supply. The number of elderly with housing needs is likely to increase as the unusually large post-World War II baby boom generation enters the retirement years.
A new HUD report, Housing Our Elders, details the housing situation of America's elders and presents the Clinton Administration's Housing Security Plan. The 55-page report also includes the first analysis of data from a special set of questions on home accessibility needs and modifications incorporated into the 1995 American Housing Survey. Among the report's key findings:
Seven percent of public housing units for the elderly and 11 percent of Section 202 housing units may have at least moderate physical defects.
Thirty percent of all elderly households7.4 millionspend more than 30 percent of their income on shelter, considered the upper limit for affordability; 1.7 million spend more than 50 percent.
The majority of elderly renters892,000 householdsspend more than 30 percent of their income on shelter.
Approximately 1.1 million elderly households report unmet needs for physical modifications to their homes to accommodate disabilities.
Assisted living options for low-income seniors who wish to remain in their communities are often severely limited.
Public housing residents tend to be older, poorer, and frailer than most elderly households. Elderly residents of public housing have a median household income of only $7,451, or 35 percent of the median for this age group.
Just as we work to save Social Security, states the report, our Nation must also work to provide housing security for seniors. The HUD Housing Security Plan is designed to help communities assemble and coordinate a comprehensive continuum of care to meet the changing housing and service needs of their elders. The Administration's plan includes three main goals:
Expand affordable housing opportunities for lower income seniors.
Improve the range and coordination of housing and service combinations.
Decent, affordable housing stands with adequate income and quality healthcare as the chief pillars upon which a secure retirement is built, states the report. The plan tailors Federal rules and resources to support a continuum-of-care approach that helps communities develop a seamless array of integrated housing and supportive service solutions for their elders.
Housing Our Elders is available from HUD USER for $5. Use the order form.