Seniors Often Choose Between Making Rent or Other Essentials

Senior Renters map


The number of senior households paying unaffordable rent has outpaced the growth in the overall senior population during the past decade. Nationally, 11.4 million renter households spend more than half their income toward rent and utilities each month leaving too little left over for other necessities like groceries or medical expenses.

According to the Louisiana Housing Corporation’s 2014 Housing Needs Assessment, 53 percent of renters in Louisiana are paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing. In New Orleans, more than 70 percent of all households pay one-third or more of their income towards housing costs according to HousingNOLA.

One group that needs greater attention is senior renters.

According to new data from the national Make Room campaign, 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.

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.

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.

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.