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Housing Challenge

Today, 13 million low-income 50-plus households live in unaffordable or inadequate homes - housing that costs more than 30 percent of the household's annual income, is structurally unsound, unsafe or uncomfortable to inhabit. With the population of older adults set to grow substantially, the scale of the housing challenges they face will greatly expand.

Older people are less likely to move than other age groups and are more likely to own their homes rather than rent. Of the 23.1 million households headed by older persons in 2009, 80 percent were owners and 20 percent were renters.

As people age, their incomes tend to get smaller and their physical needs to increase. Although the majority of older people have expressed a desire to "age in place" at home, disabilities and the costs involved in modifying homes for full accessibility make it harder for struggling seniors to continue living at home. For example, a 2005 survey found that almost 37 percent of older persons reported a severe disability; 16 percent reported they needed some type of assistance as a result. As one might expect, disability increases with age: 56 percent of seniors age 80 and above reported a severe disability and 29 percent of them said they needed assistance as a result.

Senior-owned homes are on average older and worth less than those owned by homeowners of all ages. In 2007, the average year of construction for a home owned by a senior homeowner was 1970 compared with 1974 for homeowners of all ages. The average value of a home owned by a senior in 2009 was $150,000, compared with $170,500 for homes owned by homeowners of all ages.

The foundation wishes to encourage innovative solutions to provide a greater supply of affordable housing and to ensure that the existing housing stock can adapt to these new design challenges.

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