Report: Severe Housing Cost Burdens for Older Renters

Legislation | February 17, 2021 | by Linda Couch

A new report, Low Income Older Adults Face Unaffordable Rents, Driving Housing Instability and Homelessness, sheds light on the crisis that is the nation’s lack of affordable housing for older adults.

A new report, Low Income Older Adults Face Unaffordable Rents, Driving Housing Instability and Homelessness, sheds light on the crisis that is the nation’s lack of affordable housing for older adults.

In January, the national organization Justice in Aging launched a new project focused on Housing & Homelessness to address systemic barriers to housing for older adults with low incomes. Justice in Aging partnered with the National Low Income Housing Coalition to produce the report.

“Nationally, more than 1.7 million extremely low-income (ELI) renter households with an older adult are severely cost-burdened, spending more than half of their income on rent and utilities,” the report says. ELI households are those with annual incomes below 30% of area median incomes.

COVID-19 only exacerbated the difficulty older adults with low incomes have in affording housing. “As of December, 2020, 30% of all renter households with a member age 65 and older reported a loss of employment income since March, and more than 9% of older renter households were behind in their rent payments,” the report says.

Among the report’s findings are:

  • More renters face cost burdens as they age.
  • Across all racial and ethnic categories, a higher proportion of older renter households face rental cost burdens and severe cost burdens compared to the renter population as a whole.
  • Racial and ethnic disparities in rent burdens also exist, with Black and Latinx renters more likely than white renters to be both cost-burdened and severely cost-burdened.
  • ELI renters are particularly cost-burdened, with 71% of ELI renter households severely cost-burdened (spending more than 50% of their household income on housing costs) compared to 8% of renter households with incomes between 51 and 80% of area median income.
  • Older Black, Latinx, Asian, and Native American households are about three times more likely to be ELI renters than older white households.
  • More than 2.6 million older renter households pay more than one half of their monthly income for rent and are just one medical bill or emergency away from being pushed into the streets.
  • Increasing numbers of older adults forced out of their homes are ending up homeless. In many parts of the U.S, older adults represent the fastest growing age segment of the homeless population, with nearly half of all older homeless people becoming homeless for the first time after age 50.

The report calls for an expansion of affordable, accessible housing, for increased income supports for lower income older adults, for the expansion of Medicare and Medicaid benefits so that older adults’ out-of-pocket costs for health care do not threaten their economic security, and for making comprehensive home and community-based services (HCBS) a mandatory Medicaid benefit.

Read the full report here.