The state’s population is aging. According to a report by the Urban Institute and the Fairfield County Center for Housing Opportunity, the number of adults ages 60-74 has increased more than 50% since 2000. By 2040, the number of residents ages 75 and older will increase by over 68,000. This is due to several factors including longer life expectancy, more young people moving out of the state than people moving in, and smaller household sizes compared to previous generations. With the slow but steady shift toward smaller and older households, the existing housing stock cannot meet the challenges or the demands that come with providing safe and affordable housing to Connecticut’s current and future seniors.
Largely because of an aging population, Connecticut will see an increasing need for housing units that are accessible for people with a variety of disabilities. Sensory disabilities, such as hearing and vision loss or impairment, are common among the elderly. In addition, as people age mobility challenges and cognitive impairments create challenges to living safely and independently. When the full spectrum of the aging process is not considered in the design or rehabilitation of housing, our seniors' health and safety are jeopardized.
The number of senior single-person households will continue to rise in the coming years and so will the demand for accessible and affordable housing. Most seniors are typically empty-nesters and live in small households that consist of only one or two people. They have a desire to live independently, not with family or with roommates. However, the share of older adults living alone increases sharply with age.
Many senior households that rely solely on Social Security benefits are single adults with limited opportunity for income growth beyond negligible cost-of-living adjustments. Longstanding inequity in access to well-paying jobs and homeownership opportunities leave older minority households at a financial disadvantage in their senior years due to limited retirement savings and financial equity from homeownership.
As the population ages, the demand for diversity of housing unit types will change as well. As people age and their household size decreases, there is not always a need or desire to maintain a single-family home. In fact, maintenance can be costly and burdensome to someone on a fixed income.
Creating and maintaining a diverse housing stock will help to meet the housing needs of seniors. Small multifamily housing, buildings that consist of two to nine units, already exists in Connecticut in the form of duplexes, triplexes, row homes, and accessory dwelling units. According to a report by the Partnership for Strong Communities, small multifamily units make up more than half of the multifamily housing supply in 151 of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. This type of housing requires strategic investment to ensure long-term affordability, energy efficiency, and accessibility features to meet the needs of a growing senior population in Connecticut.
TL;DR – Connecticut’s population of seniors is growing. The housing needs of low-income seniors cannot be met with the current supply of housing options. Connecticut should invest in small multifamily housing.
Phylicia Adams is the executive director of the Stonington Housing Authority - a community of seniors and adults with disabilities.