Challenges Ahead in Housing America’s Very Low-Income Older Adults

April 8, 2015
The nation’s older population has grown tremendously since the first of the baby boomers turned 50 in the mid-1990s, with the number of 50-64 year olds nearly doubling between 1990 and 2010. As the baby boomers continue to age, the population aged 65 and older is projected to soar to 73 million by 2030, an increase of 33 million in just two decades. Given a larger older population, and assuming that the current income distribution remains the same, we can expect to see an increase in the numbers of lower-income older adults; indeed, in just a decade we estimate that households 65 and over earning less than $15,000 annually will increase by 37 percent to 6.5 million. Ensuring these low-income older adults are safely and affordably housed will require a great deal of leadership, creativity, and planning, particularly in the present federal budget environment.
Currently, the majority of low-income households aged 65 and over live in housing considered “unaffordable:” fully 73 percent of those with annual incomes under $15,000, and 48 percent of those with incomes between $15,000 and $30,000, were housing cost burdened in 2013 according to the American Community Survey, paying  more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Housing-cost burdened households have less to spend on critical needs like food, healthcare, and transportation (Figure 1), and for those in their pre-retirement years, on retirement savings—which has consequences not just for quality of life today, but also for financial security in the future.