Better Housing Options for Stronger Communities

Safe, affordable and accessible housing is a critical priority for forward-looking mayors.
NANCY LEMOND, CHIEF ADVOCACY & ENGAGEMENT OFFICER, AARP | May 19, 2017

Editor’s Note: Between 2012 and 2050, the population of Americans aged 65 or over will nearly double, from 43 million to 84 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As this population grows, there’s also growing risk that older Americans will struggle to find safe and affordable places to live. Housing costs are rising in many communities. At the same time, more older Americans face economic insecurity. Over 25 million Americans aged 60-plus live at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level, says the National Council on Aging. Ensuring that housing remains affordable and that it meets the accessibility needs of an aging population will continue to be key policy issues for state and local government leaders.

Mayors across the country recognize the importance of safe, affordable and accessible housing for their constituents – and they’re taking action.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio launched a 10-year plan to create 200,000 affordable housing units across the city’s five boroughs, including a $350 million program to finance 10,000 affordable housing units for low-income seniors. The Housing New York project involves 13 city agencies and input from more than 200 stakeholders to make it easier for low- and middle-income residents to stay in the Big Apple, one of the world’s most expensive housing markets.

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker created the 5,000 Doors initiative -- a five year-effort to add 5,000 new housing units for low-wage workers, middle income families and older adults on fixed incomes – after discovering that a quarter of renters in the city devote more than half of their income to housing costs.

And Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Safe at Home program leverages city resources to help older residents stay in their homes as they age by offering qualified residents up to $10,000 in grant funding to make home improvements that reduce the risk of falls and eliminate barriers to mobility.

These efforts make communities more livable for people of all ages. According to a report by the AARP Public Policy Institute and the National Conference of State Legislatures, close to 90 percent of people over age 65 want to remain in their homes and communities for as long as possible. But age-friendly upgrades also benefit parents with strollers, teens using crutches after a sports injury and family caregivers supporting older relatives. And affordable housing helps low- and middle-income individuals of all ages make ends meet.

Meeting these goals requires reimagining everything from residential home design to how housing is integrated into the community. See how mayors are using a variety of strategies to build communities that are age-friendly and provide housing that is safe, affordable and accessible.

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