For millions of older Americans, lack of adequate and affordable housing is a serious problem. Many in the United States, including large numbers of older and retired people, live in inadequate dwellings. More than 1.5 million older people live in housing that costs too much, is in substandard condition or fails to accommodate their physical capabilities or assistance levels, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Six percent of older and retired workers (1.45 million households) live in housing needing repair and rehabilitation. One-third of these seniors live in severely substandard dwellings that threaten their safety and welfare. Renters are especially affected. Because 55 percent of renters in poor housing have incomes of less than $10,000 and no assets, it virtually is impossible for them to find better housing at affordable rents. Even some government-assisted housing is in poor condition; 7 percent of both public housing and Section 202 elderly housing has deficiencies.
Often housing for seniors is not affordable. In fact lack of affordable housing is the worst housing problem for older people. Some 30 percent of all older and retired workers pay more than they can afford for housing. Almost 900,000 elderly renters pay more than 50 percent of their low incomes for housing.
About 1 million older households suffer from unmet needs for home repairs or modification. Seniors ages 85 and older are in particularly bad straits. One-eighth of them desperately need repairs or modifications in their homes. Because those 85 and older are the fastest-growing group of older Americans, this need is expected to grow even faster in the future.
Many low-income seniors have no alternatives between receiving no assistance at all and receiving nursing home care. HUD-assisted elderly housing projects have tried to give their frail residents access to health care and other community services through the use of service coordinators. But many of these residents require more supportive environments, such as assisted living. Without such options, they will be forced into restrictive and costly nursing homes.
Responding to these needs means finding real solutionsÃ¯Â¿Â½and the money to pay for them. Here are some concrete reforms that Congress could make that could help seniors.
Substantially increase funding for a full-range of affordable housing options for seniors.
Provide necessary health care and other services to meet the wide-range of needs of older people.
Substantially expand the service coordinators program which assists senior housing residents in obtaining needed services.
Coordinate governmental agencies at all levels concerned with housing and health care.
Explore new and untapped sources of funding for housing and services for older people.
Double the budget for Section 202 of the HUD senior housing program and increase health and social services in such housing.
Make a long-term commitment of the federal government to provide sufficient resources to finance research into the housing and related service needs of an aging population and provide widespread public information about those services.