Affordable housing remains a topic at the forefront of housing policy and more often the focus is placed on special populations like veterans and older adults. By 2050, the population of individuals aged 65 or older will be more than 88 million, meaning one in every five Americans will be 65 or older. The reality of these statistics has pushed housing organizations, advocates and policymakers alike to ensure that older adults have access to safe, decent and affordable housing in communities across the nation. This is why it’s no coincidence that affordable housing for older adults was the topic of the 12thAnnual Leckey Affordable Housing Forum in Arlington, VA on Sept. 19.
Hosted by The Alliance for Housing Solutions, the forum, titled, “Aging in Our Neighborhoods: Options for Low-and Moderate-Income Seniors,” highlighted Arlington County’s need for more affordable housing options for older adults in the area. The event featured four unique panels, each addressing the topic from a different angle to demonstrate the need for affordable senior housing in the Arlington and across the United States, programs and pilots that have been enacted to provide affordable housing options, housing options that have already been successful so far and suggestions for policy implementation changes.
NHC’s Janet Viveiros gave the first presentation, emphasizing national data on older adults’ desire to age in place. Using statistics from two NHC’s reports; Aging in Every Place: Supportive Service Programs for High and Low Density Communities and Housing an Aging Population: Are We Prepared?, Janet showed that many older adults have low or moderate incomes, which can significantly limit affordable housing options and force many older adults to leave the homes and communities where they have lived for years. With research showing that nearly 90 percent of adults over age 45 want to remain in their homes “for as long as possible,” and nearly half of lower-income older adults spending over half of their income on housing costs, the panel emphasized Arlington’s (and a nationwide) need for supportive home services that can assist seniors as they age.
Janet’s presentation was followed by Elizabeth Rodgers of the Arlington Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, whose report on Arlington senior demographics showed that of annual retirees, over 20 percent move into the Arlington area, clearly demonstrating the appeal of Arlington to older adults and county’s need for supportive programs and affordable housing options that will help current residents and those migrating in to age in place.
The next panel emphasized programs and pilots that have already launched in Arlington, particularly highlighting the success of the Village Model, membership-driven grassroots organizations that coordinate specialized supportive services for older adults based on community need. Panelists from Harkins Builders, MTFA Architecture and Arlington’s Center for Urban Design then shared images and demographics of various affordable senior housing developments around the country. The forum concluded with a word from Mary Rouleau, executive director of the Alliance for Housing Solutions, who reminded the audience to continue pushing affordable housing policies in Arlington and across the nation.
The forum is named for the late Thomas P. Leckey, a noted affordable housing advocate and cofounder of the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing.