May 24, 2016
Our nation is aging and millions of older adults will struggle to find housing that is both affordable and physically suitable. As co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Senior Health and Housing Task Force, we are releasing a report Monday with a set of recommendations that Congress, the administration and states could implement that would enhance the lives of America’s seniors.
Our fundamental proposition is this: greater integration of America’s health care and housing systems will be essential to improve health outcomes for older adults and enable millions of Americans to age in place in their own homes and communities.
As former Secretaries of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, we know that growing the supply of affordable housing is at the root of the challenge before us. It is a national imperative. The alarming scarcity of housing that is safe, affordable, and physically suitable for older adults, particularly those with the most limited financial resources, is not adequately appreciated.
To understand the severity of the problem, consider this fact: In 2013, there were approximately 11.2 million “extremely low-income” renter households, including 2.6 million senior households with no children, competing for only 4.3 million affordable and available rental homes. This supply-demand imbalance resulted in a total shortfall of about 6.9 million homes.
The acute shortage of affordable homes forces low-income households of all ages to spend excessive amounts of income just to pay the rent. However, it is particularly tragic when an older adult, often living alone, must forego essentials like nutritious food and medications to pay for housing.
Absent a comprehensive and sustained effort to increase the supply of affordable housing, the situation will likely worsen as the number of older adults grows.
According to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, the number of households aged 65-to-74 and 75-and-older with “severe” rent burdens (paying more than 50% of income on housing) will rise by 42% and 39%, respectively, by 2025.
To help close the supply gap, we should expand federal support for one of the most effective tools in our toolkit, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. This 30-year old program has encouraged $100 billion in private investment that has helped finance the construction and preservation of more than 2.8 million affordable rental homes.
Greater private investment in affordable housing is needed now more than ever, and the LIHTC is indispensable to encouraging this investment.