Aging in Place and the Housing Crunch

As more seniors choose to age and receive care in their own homes, demand for accessible housing will likely increase. Whether due to cost of managed care, long waitlists in managed care facilities, or personal preference, the number of available houses suitable for a wide range of abilities may not meet aging Boomers’ needs. Having as many accessibility features available as possible can help seniors adapt to changes in health, stay in their homes, and remain part of our community. 

The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, estimates that by 2035, one third of head of households will be aged 65 or older. According to JCHS, homeownership rates are higher among older adults than the general population. They anticipate ownership rates in the 65 and older segment to increase by 62 percent, from 24 million in 2015 to a projected 38 million in 2035, while homeowners over age 80 could double to 12 million (JCHS, 2016). In the twenty-year projection, the study states, “the number of older households with a disability will increase by 76 percent. ” 

Only four homes or condos advertised any accessibility features, of those for sale or sold in Benton County since January 2018 (search provided by Willamette Valley Multiple Listing Service Feb 26). The search produced only 70 single-story homes in the same time frame, with no options to further identify those with walk-in showers or wide hallways, for example. To capture as many listings as possible, wide search parameters included homes and condos, lots under 5,000 square feet, and priced under $800k. 

These results are supported by JCHS (2016): “Less than 4 percent of single-family homes, the most common form of housing for older adults, and only 3.5 percent of housing units overall, offer three of the most critical accessibility features mentioned here (single-floor living, extra-wide hallways and doors, and zero-step entrances).”

When asked if his department considers accessibility needs and the aging population when negotiating with developers, Paul Bilotta at the Corvallis Planning Division sees, “The market is going that way on its own. More and more housing is being built single level. We want to make sure affordable housing is accessible to all.” He also noted that the State relaxed codes on Accessory Dwelling Units in the last year, to help families with older relatives live together.

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