New HUD Report: Increase of Older Adult Housing Needs

Regulation | June 23, 2020 | by Linda Couch

HUD has posted a new report, Worst Case Housing Needs: 2019 Report to Congress. Nationally, the overall number of households with worst case housing needs declined by 7% between 2015 and 2017, the period of time covered by the biannual report. However, worst case housing needs among older adults increased during this period.

HUD has posted a new report, Worst Case Housing Needs: 2019 Report to Congress. Nationally, the overall number of households with worst case housing needs declined by 7% between 2015 and 2017, the period of time covered by the biannual report. However, worst case housing needs among older adults increased during this period.

In HUD’s own words from the report, “On the basis of household composition, only among elderly householders did worst case needs increase during 2015 to 2017.”

For older adults, the number of worst case needs increased by more than 4%. That’s an increase of about 80,000 older adult households.

“Worst case housing needs” households are very low income renter households (not individual renters) who are paying more than ½ of their income toward housing costs. So, they are eligible for housing assistance but they are not receiving it because the programs, like HUD’s Section 202, Section 8 and public housing programs, are too small to meet the need.

Congress asked HUD to produce this biannual report decades ago so Congress can keep its finger on the pulse of some of the nation’s most severe housing needs. Having a worst case housing need is a predictor of possible forthcoming increases in homelessness and severe housing poverty.

As LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said in a June 23 statement on the report, “Hidden among the good news in the HUD report is a disheartening finding: Despite the national trend of declining worst case needs, the number of elderly households experiencing severe housing problems has steadily increased over the past decade.

Our nation has undervalued and under-invested in older adults for decades. As the older population continues to grow, housing assistance programs are not keeping pace—and we are now seeing the results. In 2017, nearly 2 million older renters had worst case needs, an increase of more than nearly 80,000 from 2015.

We implore Congress: Do not to overlook this critical finding. It foreshadows an avoidable future for some of the most vulnerable older adults in our country—a future made even more perilous given the outsized impact of the COVID-1 pandemic on this population. By expanding programs like HUD’s flagship Section 202 Housing for the Elderly, our leaders can help ensure that every older adult has a quality place to call home.”

The report says the increase in worst case housing needs among older adults is largely attributable to the growing population of very low income older adult renter households. But, perhaps, the real blame rests not on older adults but in policymakers’ failure to prepare for the surge in older adult households known to be coming for decades. LeadingAge will use the data provided by the report to achieve our goals of expanding and preserving affordable housing for older adults.