Almost 20 million households with adults age 50 and over living in them spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. They are therefore considered housing cost-burdened. Approximately 9.6 million households headed by someone age 50 or older are severely housing cost-burdened. They spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing. Housing cost burden affects both homeowners and renters. But renters are more likely to be housing cost-burdened.
Renters typically have lower incomes and face rising rents each year, whereas homeowners with fixed-rate mortgages have more predictable housing costs. Almost half of the households with older adults age 50-64 are severely cost-burdened. Conditions are worse for families with adults age 80 and older: Nearly 60 percent of those households are severely cost-burdened. The severe shortage of affordable housing can put households at risk for homelessness (see also the chapter's section, Homelessness).
Policymakers can address affordability by increasing subsidies for housing. They can also increase the size and diversity of market-rate housing to promote affordability. This can be achieved through new construction of attached housing, tiny homes, or units that are on the same lot as or attached to an existing home (see also the zoning policy in the Effective Planning section of this chapter).