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Friday, February 3, 2017

A Housing Crisis Indeed

“A Housing Crisis for Seniors” by op-ed writer Allison Arieff appeared in last Sunday’s New York Times. I’m sorry to say that it’s among many articles, essays, and opinion pieces I've read on the subject recently.

I’m equally sorry to say that I began living the housing crisis—as are so many other seniors in the Chicago area, and beyond—in 2009, with the beginning of the recession, aka “the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression.”

This lived situation, in large part, accounts for why I am a member of the Housing Committee of the newly forming Senior Village in Edgewater; the Village, one of a growing number in the Chicago area, will be providing a range of services to seniors living in four wards on Chicago’s northside.

And one of the most necessary services is helping people “age in community” by providing them safe and affordable housing.  Our committee is involved in researching exactly what those options might be and, more importantly, if they even come close to meeting the need.

So far, the news isn’t good. Which is why we have writers, academics, and developers often with a personal stake weighing in on the issue.

I’ve excerpted bits of Allison Arieff’s article, ones that express the urgent need to address the senior housing crisis in this country. I’ve added a comment or two following each.


1. The population aged 65 and over is expected to grow to 79 million from 48 million in the next 20 years, and by 2035, one in three American households will be headed by someone 65 or older (and 9.3 million of those will be one-person households like my relative’s). A report just out from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard, “Projects and Implications for a Growing Population: Older Households 2015-2035 Housing,” reveals that this demographic shift will increase the need for affordable, safe housing that is well connected to services way beyond what current supply can meet.

Not much to say here, really, other than that this population shift is described by many as a “silver tsunami.” And with good reason, yes?

2. …yet the unease about where one will end up as one ages is not at all unfounded. Better housing for older people exists at the lowest and the highest ends of the economic spectrum — for those who can afford luxury options and those who qualify for aid.

Yes, it’s the wide middle-class who is being most affected by the shortage of affordable senior housing.

3. Thoughtfully designed housing for older adults is not being created on a scale commensurate with the growing need. It’s not a market many architects or developers have embraced.

I will occasionally read or hear about some in these professions who are embracing it, although many do so from personal experience. They have family members--parents, grandparents, perhaps aunts and uncles--who need to find suitable housing as they age.

As for the forces that drive this lack of appropriately designed houses for older adults, they may have to be addressed by housing policies that would encourage these professionals to "embrace" that market.

4. But less than a quarter of older adults live in high-density areas, so demand is likely to increase for new housing options within existing suburbs and rural communities.

While I live in and address urban issues related to aging, what this article does is point out the need for senior housing options in the suburbs and more rural areas, places where current zoning laws need to be addressed, along with the huge dependence on the automobile for getting around.

5. Every day for the next 19 years, 10,000 people will reach age 65. That companies aren’t scrambling to exploit this market is not only unfortunate for their bottom line, but almost certainly treacherous, eventually, for all of us.

Not sure “treacherous” is too strong a word to describe the situation if both government and business fail to act.

To read the entire New York Times article, click here:

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