The number of senior households paying unaffordable rent has outpaced the growth in the overall senior population during the past decade.
Between 2005 and 2014, the overall population of seniors age 65 and over increased by 25 percent nationwide, from 22.5 million to 28.1 million, while the number of seniors paying more than half of their household income (before taxes) toward rent and utilities shot up by 34 percent, from 1.4 million to 1.8 million.
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According to Make Room’s analysis, 43 percent of seniors who pay more than half their income on rent have no income except for Social Security. Meanwhile, there will be no Social Security payment increase in 2016 for only the third year since the federal government instated cost-of-living adjustments in 1975.
Individuals and families who pay more than half their income for housing costs are considered “severely burdened” by housing experts. Seniors who must pay such a large share of their income on rent are often forced to choose between making rent and paying for groceries, medicine and other essentials.
Single women with a median age of 78 represent nearly 1.1 million, or 58 percent, of the 1.8 million senior renter households spending more than half their income on rent. Men living alone with a median age of 73 represent nearly 390,000, or 21 percent, of these households. Seniors struggling to pay rent are far more likely to live in large apartment buildings. More than half of senior severely burdened renters live in buildings with 10 or more units, compared with just over 30 percent of all severely burdened renters.
Similar trends in metro areas
From 2005 to 2014, the proportion of seniors experiencing severe rent burdens grew by the largest amount in the Louisville/Jefferson County (KY-IN) metro area (10.5 percentage points), closely followed by the New Orleans and Hartford (Conn.) metro areas, where the number of seniors paying unaffordable rent rose 9.8 and 9.6 percentage points, respectively.
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Nationally, 11.4 million families, or 26.4 percent of the 43.1 million U.S. renter households, spend at least half their income on rent according to 2014 Census data, the latest available.