Joint Center for Housing Studies Releases Post Exploring Impacts of Health and Ability on Social and Economic Risks and Senior Homelessness

The Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) of Harvard University published a post on its Housing Perspectives blog highlighting findings from a 2023 report, “Pathways into and out of Housing Insecurity and Homelessness,” which analyzed interviews with aging, housing, and homelessness service providers in Boston. While existing research has documented the myriad factors that can increase a person’s risk of experiencing homelessness, the 2023 report revealed that adults 50 and older are especially at risk of housing insecurity resulting from age-related changes. The report divides age-related factors into three categories: economic, health and ability, and social. Each factor is further influenced by individual circumstances, older adult-specific circumstances, and broader policy conditions, including housing affordability, accessibility, and supply. The report and blog post provide additional evidence of the inextricable connections between health and access to affordable housing among seniors. Read the blog post here

Older adults living on a fixed income are especially susceptible to housing cost burdens, as housing costs rise and outpace rises in income. Many older adults also lose income when a spouse dies and they are unable to receive housing assistance due to the insufficient funding of rental subsidy programs. Without a larger supply of affordable housing or access to housing assistance, rising housing costs or the death of a partner can spiral into housing loss and potentially homelessness.

Moreover, many older adults have mobility limitations, but less than 4% of the national housing stock is accessible, which requires many people to either modify their homes or navigate an already narrow housing search to find a home that is both affordable and accessible. Health conditions that are more common as a person ages can increase an older adult’s need for support from family and friends when performing daily living activities. The loss of that support can lead to housing instability and, in the worst cases, homelessness. More accessible and affordable housing options for older adults are needed, including fully funded rental assistance and home modification programs.

Read the blog post here