As baby boomers grudgingly age into their sunset years, they may find it increasingly difficult to find or afford housing that meets their needs.
In particular, younger boomers who are now in their 50s are poorer and have more debt than previous generations (in addition to lower home ownership rates). They may be unable to cover the cost of housing or long-term care in their retirement years, according to a recent report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. The youngest of the 76 million boomers have begun turning 50 this year – and 10,000 boomers a day will turn 65 from now through 2030.
The vast majority want to stay in their homes, but those homes often lack accessibility features, such as single-level living and wider hallways and doors, that would allow them to operate a wheelchair, for example. Furthermore, suburban or rural areas with inadequate public transportation can isolate them from family and friends as well as health care providers.
“The housing stock of America is pretty inflexible,” says David Eckerdt, director of the Gerontology Center and a sociology at the University of Kansas. “You can’t resize it or move it, and the ‘build’ environment can’t quickly acquire the necessary transit or parks or supermarkets.”
There may be a silver lining here, though: a real estate market that’s more welcoming to millennials. Here are four boomer-led housing trends that may help the younger generation in the long term.
ONE: A Housing Swap. For financial reasons and because they’re healthier than previous generations, boomers are staying in suburban single-family homes far longer than their parents did. That’s OK, because thanks to college loans and a tough job market, it’s taking millennials longer to gain the financial independence they need to buy a house. Despite witnessing one of the worst housing busts in American history, two-thirds of millennials recently polled by Zillow agreed with the statement that owning a home is necessary to living the “good life” and is central to the American dream.