Aging and the Housing Market

When wanting to downsize their living situation, some older Americans are startled to find a dearth of smaller housing units in their neighborhoods.

1 minute read

November 29, 2022, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Side view of older woman sitting on gray sofa gazing pensively out of wall-sized window.

fizkes / Woman on sofa

Writing in the New York Times, Dana Goldstein and Robert Gebeloff describe an unexpected consequence of decades of strict single-family zoning and restrictions on multifamily units: now, aging Boomers and Gen X-ers who want to downsize from their sprawling family homes are finding it difficult to secure new housing in the communities they live in.

As the number of people over 50 living alone rises sharply—today, 36 percent of households headed by an adult over 50 have a single occupant—“the nation’s housing stock has grown out of sync with these shifting demographics,” Goldstein and Gebeloff explain.

Living solo in homes with three or more bedrooms sounds like a luxury but, experts said, it is a trend driven less by personal choice than by the nation’s limited housing supply. Because of zoning and construction limitations in many cities and towns, there is a nationwide shortage of homes below 1,400 square feet, which has driven up the cost of the smaller units that do exist, according to research from Freddie Mac.

Now, people seeking to move into smaller homes or condos often find it more expensive, if not impossible. As the article points out, “The constraints are especially severe for many older Black Americans, for whom the legacy of redlining and segregation has meant that homeownership has not generated as much wealth.”

Sunday, November 27, 2022 in The New York Times

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