By 2030, one in five Americans will be at least 65. The Wall Street Journal reports that 40+ million American households pay more than a third of their income on rent. This is particularly upsetting given that the number had been trending downward in recent years, which infers a continuing rental affordability crisis. This situation is largely due to the deepening income inequality across the U.S. Added to the growing shortage of appropriate housing for our aging population, it’s clear that the time is now for communities to address affordable, alternative strategies.
A 2014 Harvard study* sponsored by the AARP Foundation bears this out. The report cites that many older people are skimping on other necessities in order because of housing costs. Older adults with the highest housing cost-burden spend 40% less on food than their counterparts on more affordable housing. The report contends that increasingly people will find themselves in housing that is no longer suitable for safe and independent living.
This predicament is compounded by the lack of adequate housing stock available in many communities today. Answers may be found in communities’ strategic planning, and actionable steps to address the problem. While comprehensive, proactive thinking is required, the will of the electorate must adhere to the goals and objectives specifically expressed in the plan. An unintended impact of unaffordable housing is social isolation.
The Harvard study claims that the lack of mobility and losing the ability to drive leaves personal and physical needs unmet because of too few or no available transportation options available.
One of my major concerns is the lack of integration between housing and healthcare. This increases costs and puts senior independent living further at risk. Home and community-based care allows older adults with healthcare needs to avoid expensive stays in long-term facilities.
Unfortunately, within America’s healthcare infrastructure, over-emphasis is placed on institutional care, as opposed to providing in-home and community-based options to serve the most vulnerable of older adults.
Whether young or old, it is important for policymakers to understand that safe, adequate, affordable housing is not just shelter but is also an investment in good health, as claimed by an April 2015 Center for Housing Policy Insights article. Entitled “The Impacts of Affordable Housing on Health,” the research explores ten ways affordable housing influences the health of people of all ages.
Creation of more affordable housing helps individuals and families to gain a greater sense of stability, frees personal resources for other essential needs, improves physical health & emotional/mental well-being, affords a safer living environment, and creates an efficient platform for health care delivery.
Well-constructed, well maintained, and more efficient affordable housing reduces health problems associated with poor quality housing. Linking housing to supportive services, enables older adults and others with mobility limitations to remain independent and in their own homes longer.
It just makes good sense. If we want our communities to thrive, affordable housing options must be made available for everyone. One thing is absolutely certain. Creating a more livable community is not someone else’s concern: it’s everyone’s concern.
Join me in making a difference in people’s lives and you’ll find yourself making a difference in your own.