Understanding housing challenges associated with planning for livable communities is important for community planners and local governments alike. This is the third report generated by Partners for Livable Communities and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) in a series of workshops regarding livability practices. Each report highlights a different aspect of livable community planning through workshops held in different cities nationwide. In this case, the report highlights a workshop held in Kansas City, Missouri titled, “Housing’s Role in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area: Creating a Livable Community for All Ages.” By reading what leaders and planners in Kansas City discussed about housing planning and practices, community planners everywhere can glean insights into solutions for their own areas.
Like many cities in the U.S., Kansas City is facing an aging population base and a “potential crisis in housing” (page 9). This is due to several factors: a desire by the older community to age in place, houses currently designed for younger people, and an increasing financial quagmire for older adults as they relate to housing costs. In Missouri, an estimated 30 percent of “older households” pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing (page 9). Finding housing solutions involving design, planning, and funding will be critical to sustaining livable communities.
Other report highlights include:
- An examination of Kansas City’s housing challenges by city leaders, reviewing how Kansas City housing is designed for “independence and mobility” (page 11), as defined as able-bodied younger adults. Currently, homes are designed for two adults, two children and two cars. Older adults have different housing needs related to design and affordability. One solution is the implementation of universal design principles in housing. The National Association of Home Builders reports that “75 percent of remodelers” report increased demand to make homes accessible for older adults.
- Another major challenge addressed by the Kansas City panelists was the affordability of housing. There is an increasing demand in reverse mortgages as a financing option for increased medical, healthcare, caregiving, or home renovation expenses. Because most older adults own their homes without mortgage costs, this may be a creative solution in paying for escalating costs associated with getting older.
- Government plays a significant role in housing planning as it relates to zoning. The report states, “comprehensive zoning’s most fundamental problem is that over the years its ordinances have increasingly pigeonholed residential development into the single-family housing model” (page 14). Alternatives to this zoning option include permitting accessory dwelling units (ADUs) (these are essentially adjacent living spaces for older adults or caregivers), shared housing (multiple seniors under one roof), housing cooperatives, and allowing for construction on smaller lot sizes. The workshop also explored how governments can change Medicare/Medicaid spending to incentivize “aging in place.”
How to Use
The Best Practices section of the report (page 20-23) provides short descriptions of ongoing housing solutions nationwide. Through knowing best practices, community planners and local governments can increase efficiency in local planning by not having to invent solutions that are already working elsewhere.
View full report: Creating a Livable Kansas City Metro Area for All Ages – 2008 (PDF – 5.6 MB)