The United States has made some great strides in reforming elder housing laws, but there’s still a long way to go. As baby boomers are aging, the future of America’s senior population is increasing steadily. The amount of adults 65 and up will likely increase by at least 48 million within the next twenty years.
But the country’s current housing supply is not able to match the increasing number of elderly looking for senior housing in pricing, design, or accessibility.
This has prompted the municipal, state, and federal governments to step up their game and institute more specific laws for senior housing.
On December 28, 2015, then-president Bill Clinton signed the Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995 (HOPA). This amended Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act, under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
This law grants communities the ability to legally advertise themselves as “55+” or “age-restricted,” as long as 80 percent of residents are at least 55 years old. Otherwise, the community loses its age-restriction status.
In most cases, active adult communities require a minimum age for their occupants. Also, the majority of these communities will not accept anyone younger than 19 unless they’re given an exemption or if they live in designated family units (if available). Community managers, however, can decide to raise or lower the minimum age limit.
On top of that, communities will often require residents younger than 55 to live in a house where at least one resident is that age or older.
Almost all age-restricted and active adult communities permit residents below the age limit – for example, grandchildren – to pay visits from time to time. They typically allow them to stay anywhere from two weeks to 90 days a year.
The Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act excludes “housing for older persons” from discriminating against families where there’s a conflict in classifying the children, where all occupants have to be at least 62 years old, or 80% of the community’s residents should be people who are older than 55.
Every now and then, the Fair Housing Council is asked about the legality of transforming an existing community to housing for seniors under the Fair Housing Act.
HUD has straightened this out through a memo, saying that both the Fair Housing Act and HOPA lifted the discrimination restriction on familial status for any communities and facilities that have met requirements. They show a clear intent to house seniors.
Continuing Research for Housing Laws
HUD pinpointed different fields for ongoing research related to senior housing. They seek to examine seniors’ affordable housing needs along with evidence-based techniques for meeting them.
In the original plan, they sought insights and recommendations from professionals to help them develop policies and test assistance models. Specifically, research focused on these areas:
- Housing production
- Integration of services
They also estimated the capital needs of Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program, which the HUD had done for its other programs. It also covered using the Rental Assistance Demonstration for the recapitalization of properties for investment.
Accessibility Laws and Elder Housing
Because of the accessible housing shortage, even with the country’s huge population of seniors and the disabled, HUD has also been looking into the accessibility features for its assisted multifamily housing. They’re also looking to add features to match the nature and degree of disabilities that people living in these properties have.
To guarantee high-quality results for residents, researchers use data from surveys and site inspections. In the same way, HUD’s awareness of the country’s problems allows it to more accurately predict and effectively meet the needs of this group of people.
In general, HUD-assisted adults are more likely to develop serious health conditions — not only when compared to the general adult population, but also with unassisted low-income adults. Addressing this group’s needs is an opportunity to make a considerable difference.
Programs and Policies
They are considering how state Medicaid waiver programs (allowing long-term care services) impact HUD programs. These programs are unique to each state and are dedicated to seniors with disabilities, preparing them for aging in place.
Interestingly, HUD has been partnering with research and housing agencies in countries like Japan, where there is a significant senior population. They’re working with countries that share our country’s common housing issues and challenges.
This cooperation is designed to explore best practices in helping the aging population age in place by implementing effective housing finance and community development policies.
Working For Increased Elder Housing Laws
When it comes to the senior population’s health and ability to age in safe, comfortable, and affordable environments, innovative models work.
Programs like SASH (Support and Services at Home) and CAPABLE (Community Aging in Place – Advancing Better Living for Elders) have created positive results, enriching the lives of seniors and empowering them to achieve their individual goals.
These programs have become highly successful locally, thanks to partnerships with healthcare and housing providers, as well as with nonprofits, housing providers, and public entities. Continuing HUD-directed research, can usher in new ideas, policies, and elder housing laws.
The degree of the problems — a shortage of senior-friendly and affordable housing, the gap between accessible housing and the people who need them, and the challenges in giving residents access to necessary health services — is alarming. Unless more change is made, it will only worsen with the increasing population.
Seeing to it that the responses are suitable for the extent and degree of need will call for the involvement and investment of the public, private, and nonprofit sectors across the levels.
Local entities are doing great but often need to work overtime to secure resources. They struggle to find the means to construct new units or adjust what’s available to provide housing options that fit the needs of the aging population. Elder housing laws moving forward must be tied to addressing real problems and concerns for the elderly in the U.S.
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