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JCHS: Housing ownership declines for older Americans

New JCHS report details widening home ownership concerns.

BY HBSDealer Staff

Housing inequality is becoming increasingly evident among older Americans as the number of older households climbs to unprecedented levels.

That’s the message from Housing America’s Older Adults 2019, a new report by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS).

According to the JCHS, between 2012 and 2017, the number of households headed by someone 65 or older jumped from 27 million to 31 million and will continue to grow. At the same time, the number of older adults facing housing cost burdens reached an all-time high of 10 million, income disparities are widening, and white-minority gaps in homeownership have expanded. At the same time, homeownership rates are lower and debt rates are higher for those 50 to 64, as compared to earlier generations.

The new report supplements the JCHS’s annual State of the Nation’s Housing report and shows lower-income households falling further behind their higher-earning peers in income growth

Between 2012 to 2017, the incomes of households age 65 and over in the top 10% increased by 22% while incomes of those in the bottom 10% fell by 4%. Additionally, the median income for the highest earners between the ages of 50 and 64 set a new record of nearly $204,000 in 2017, while the median income for the lowest earners, $14,400, was lower than the 2000 level of $17,100.

“The falloff in homeownership rates among those approaching retirement, and the elevated levels of mortgage debt among those who do own is concerning,” says Chris Herbert, managing director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies. “And there are significant differences in owners and renters when it comes to preparedness for retirement.” Indeed, homeowners have far greater net wealth than renters: in 2016, the median homeowner age 65 and over had a net worth of $319,200, compared to the same-age renter whose net worth was just $6,700. Additionally, owners who have paid off their mortgage have lower housing costs, at a monthly median of $458, compared to renters’ monthly cost of $830.

The report also highlights the widening racial/ethnic disparities in homeownership: last year, the black-white homeownership gap among households age 65 and over was at a 30-year high of 19.4%  while the Hispanic-white gap stood at 18.4%.

“Given these growing affordability challenges, combined with low rates of housing accessibility and a lack of services in the areas where many older Americans live, the report highlights several serious issues facing the country with respect to housing its increasing older adult population. “Addressing these issues will require concerted action at all levels of government,” said Jennifer Molinsky, a senior research associate at the center and lead author of the report. “This is especially true as the leading edge of the baby boomers reaches their 80s in the next decade and the need for affordable and accessible housing increases.”

The full report from the JCHS can be read here.

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