AFFORDABLE HOUSING SOLUTIONS FOR AGING IN PLACE:
By Eva Otto- Designated Broker, MES, LEED AP, Ecobroker,
Aging in place is simply the ability to stay in your home and age around your neighborhood and your family safely, independently and comfortably, no matter what your age, ability, or income.
Moving is one of the life’s biggest stressors amongst divorce, death, illness, and losing a job. It’s hard to leave your friends or your family or your neighborhood, no matter what age. However as we grow older, we become even more set in our habits and the prospect of being able to age in place is the most comforting. This is an issue that’s facing at least one third of the households today and we have many more households that are getting into a position to age in place as baby boomers soar past age sixty-five.
“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Americans 65 and older will rise from 35 million people in 2000 to more than 73 million in 2030. “- Tim Savoy, The Washington Post, March 14, 2016
Many people know the Ballard locks project. This was Edith Macefield’s house an elderly woman and real estate holdout. She was fixed on aging in her own 108 yr old farmhouse and decided that she was not going to move or sell to a developer. Her story is heart wrenching.
Obstacles to Aging in Place
As a brokerage with attention to health and wellness, healthy homes are something that we at Infiniti Real Estate and Development address often. As we age in place we have changing healthcare needs that can create obstacles to staying in our home. Most often we see how a health concern can then compound into a house concern because failing health makes it hard for us to keep up with the maintenance of our house. The reverse is also true, where the house could be sick due to disrepair, or maybe an environmental issue in the house such as mold that is making the occupant sick. We often find our seniors on a hamster wheel trying to balance living in a healthy home and being able to maintain the home. Whether it’s loss of mobility or other factors such as cost of living; home maintenance is a big expense.
Financial concerns play a huge role in maintaining our homes. As one find themselves aging on a fixed budget the reality of spending money on fixing up the house may be limiting. Seniors may also be less likely to call someone and say they have a maintenance problem; perhaps they have turned off the heat because gas bills are too high or are not wanting to increasingly burden friends and family for help. Mounting financial costs such as rising property taxes and inflation for basic goods and services can create hostile environments for seniors to safely age in place.
Safety is an important concern to overcoming obstacles to aging in place. Making sure there is community of friends and care givers close by to address safety issues around mobility, vulnerability, or loss of health status can be crucial to successful aging in place.
Five Components of Success to Aging in Place
The AARP has identified five key components to success with Aging in Place that I would like to share here:
- Choice: The number one key is choice; choosing to live at home, being able to choose to be in your place and being able to get the services that you need while you’re there. Having the ability to age at home means having the economic choice to do so.
- Flexibility: Means having the flexibility to have health and care taker services come into your home, or the mobility and access services outside of your home. Having flexibility means having the ability to stay at home and adapt your lifestyle as your needs change.
- Entrepreneurship: This is an emerging component of affordability and aging in place. Today when the cost of living is high and social assistance is often insufficient, seniors are looking at new models of revenue while aging in place. Utilizing ones assets, in this case one’s home, to offset the cost of living/income is becoming more mainstream. Entrepreneurship can have a key role in helping seniors stay at home and have the choice to age in place.
- Mixed Generations: A key to success for aging in place is models is inter-generational living. When we mix generations, we continue to support aging population that is contributing to a community. A lot of times older people need some younger people to do some chores around the house and they can hire teenager in the community, or a parent needs childcare that maybe grandparent or senior can provide. There is an amazing amount of quality of life issues that come up with mixing generations and it is an important contributor to a diverse and healthy community.
- Smart growth: Many of us from the Green Building and Sustainable Development community understand that smart growth is one of the main keys to allow for aging in place. With smart urban growth, if you lose your ability to drive, you can still take a bus, or if you need walkability to get services, or if you want to just stay engaged in the community, or walk to your church, you’re still having a really positive independent life. Smart growth, sensible transportation and dense neighborhoods to walk in are important for seniors actively engaged in the community.
How is Entrepreneurship and Intergenerational living changing the way we Age in Place?
Whether living with relatives, independently in a duplex, cottage or flat, or in a home shared with other individuals, traditional and new creative shared models of ownership and living together are becoming increasingly popular. Entrepreneurship can have a key role in helping seniors stay at home and have the choice to age in place.
Co-living: Sharing your Home
This model is gaining interest as an affordable housing model and is specifically well catered to aging in place. Co-Living models are non-ownership shared living models based on shared values and interests and come in different shapes and sizes.
Seniors and Students
One trend we’re seeing in the U.S. and around the world is a housing model that is addressing affordability for two different generations, both seniors and students. Nursing homes are now inviting students into residencies and Universities are inviting students to live off-campus with seniors.
In the case of the nursing home students may be offered a residecy to live and provide service to seniors including art class, music class or something that aligns with their major. In other cases students may live with an independent senior and do a work exchange in place of paying rent including helping with chores, shopping or cooking, with the added benefit of social interaction and friendship. Universities across the country are discovering that there’s actually a tremendous amount of untapped affordable housing options in cities across the country.
In places like New York City where the cost of living is extremely high, the cost of housing students is also incredibly high. Programs have been adopted at NYU that match University students with seniors who are aging in place. Students get their room and board reduced by 50% and the senior host gets a student to live with them and provide income.
Due to the popularity of this model of housing students at MIT developed a matchmaking app between older people who are aging in place and students. It is estimated that “…50 million bedrooms sit empty every night in the United States.”-Kathryn M. O’Neill, M.I.T. News Room, July 11, 2017
At Nesterly.com a senior can fill out a profile and get matched up with a student and Nesterly.com does the vetting of the students including background checks and more. “Nesterly targets both the affordability crisis and the aging population with a single integrated solution,” said cofounder Virginia Maloney, MBA ’17.
One thing that’s not often talked about as a result of intergeneration living is the social capital that arises out of this relationship between different generations including the sharing of wisdom, culture, enthusaim, trends, and values, support systems, happiness, friendships and the development of surrogate family bonds. The older generation has experience and knowledge to share, and the younger generation has new ideas and energy to share. Sharing your home can build your social capital and improve your health through human interaction. Living alone can lead to social isolation in some cases, and can cause health problems such as dementia and even led to early mortality. (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/warning-living-alone-may-be-hazardous-to-your-health-8795790/)
Co-Living: Sharing Your Yard
In many cities around the country changes in zoning have allowed single-family parcels to densify into multi-family parcels and add additional household units to a single property. In some cases homeowners can build additional single family homes, and on a smaller scale in cities like Seattle single family lots are now zoned to allow one additional small structure known as a detached assessory dwelling unit (DADU), or backyard cottage. For properties that are located in these zones, there is an opportunity to share your yard and build additional dwellings that could be rented or sold.
Owners of these properties have an opportunity to develop the land themselves, or sell to a builder. One Seattle resident in the Fremont neighborhood is deciding to stay instead of sell. He is redeveloping his single family home into 4 separate single family home units and he plans to live in one of the homes.
There’s an elementary school within walking distance. There is also one additional bedroom; an Attached Dwelling Unit on it and there’s a very strong community oriented design with a courtyard and rooftop decks with great views. What is important about this story is that the owner who had owned the house for a long time decided instead of selling it to a builder or developer, he was going to redevelop it and he was going to redevelop it with the community focus. This long time resident looked around and he saw what was being built by other builders and he didn’t like those designs and he wanted to embellish the community, he wanted to stay in the community and help to create the neighborhood that he wants to live in. He will be renting out three of the units and living in the single family; not necessarily maximizing his rents; but providing affordable housing for a community that has expressed the need for housing in order to remain in this colorful, vibrant and artistic community of Fremont. For similar models of Sharing your Yard See Infiniti’s Blog Post “Yes! In my Backyard” discussing Architect Rex Hohlbein’s Block Project.
One Fremont resident, a neighbor of InfinitRed is going to stay. He is redeveloping his single family home into multiple single family units and he plans to live in one of the front houses. The two in the front are family size; three bedroom and two bedroom, single family homes. There’s an elementary school within walking distance. There is also one additional bedroom; an Attached Dwelling Unit on it and there’s a very strong community oriented design with a courtyard and rooftop decks with great views. What is important about this story is that the owner who had owned the house for a long time decided instead of selling it to a builder or developer, he was going to redevelop it and he was going to redevelop it with the community focus. This long time resident looked around and he saw what was being built by other builders and he didn’t like those designs and he wanted to embellish the community, he wanted to stay in the community and help to create the neighborhood that he wants to live in. He will be renting out three of the units and living in the single family; not necessarily maximizing his rents; but providing affordable housing for a community that has expressed the need for housing in order to remain in this colorful, vibrant and artistic community of Fremont. For similar models of Sharing your Yard See Infiniti’s Blog Post “Yes! In my Backyard” discussing Architect Rex Hohlbein’s Block Projet.
Micro-housing is a definite trend for affordability and for aging in place. There are some exciting trends in tiny home communities.
“Some 40 percent of tiny house owners are over age 50.” – Linda Abbit, Senior Planet, January 07, 2015
There is also the trend of moving into what many consider to be “millennial housing” or “apodments” These are one type of Co-living spaces similar to Co-Working units that have been becoming popular for shared office resources. Companies like We Work or the Impact Hub have been doing Co-Working developments for nearly a decade. Now We Work is moving to the Co-Living model with We-Live: thirty six stories of micro housing units for temporary or long term housing. So instead of a senior aging alone at home, they could potentially co-live in a multi-generational environment in the downtown of Seattle with walkability, entertainment and community.
“New urbanism was conceived for millennials, but it is affordable to boomers”– Ronda Kaysen, AARP, February 20, 2018
There are many Co-Living options, traditional and new housing models, for seniors to consider. Co-Living is not just a housing model for sharing a home, but also may involve living in more of a community; there are many creative approaches.
Co-Buying / Co-Purchasing and Cooperative Housing:
Shared ownership models are another way to create affordability. Co-Buying is the process of buying real estate with one or more people to whom one is not married. Oftentimes people are buying with their family or will work with their friends and it’s a great way to get your purchasing power up. In a market like Seattle it’s very difficult to afford to buy a house on your own in just about any neighborhood. This shared buying power is a great way to enter the market, or a strategy to slowly exit the market as you age, whether you are trying start off small with some real estate assets or to sell off assets incrementally and downsize. …Certainly some pioneering financing models.
The difference between a cooperative and a Co-Buying model is that Co-Buying is an ownership model where you own shares in a corporation, you don’t actually own physical property. Co-Buying is very democratic and as a corporation your private information is shielded from tax records and things like that. If you’re banding together with someone to build, it can also be less expensive because you’re only paying for the cost of construction rather than experiencing the mark ups and sales costs like brokers’ commissions, loan origination fees and other speculative fees and costs. These fees do not occur when buying into a share of a Co-Buy. Also upon exit, if you needed to sell, it would be easy to exit the agreement and sell your share.
The Cooperative housing model is really the original model for affordable housing. It was popularized in dense urban areas like New York when people banded together and formed a corporation to buy property and build. Projects like the Jewish cooperative housing projects were mainly sponsored by Unions and community organizations of the day.
It’s kind of falling out of style to develop them, but cooperatives are still absolutely a model for shared housing; most people today go towards a Co-Housing model. A Co-Housing model is more of a condominium ownership where you don’t own shares in a corporation but you own a portion of the physical property and share a common area. The Co-Buying model mostly deals with tenant in common agreements.
Life goals; We all want to be like The Golden Girls and move in with our besties when we get older and have a great time. That is absolutely a trend that’s happening. Many people are deciding to do it together. One person can afford this much and the other can afford that much, maybe it’s not equal, but a tenant in common agreement will allow two people to Co-Purchase together then divide it up differently; one could have a twenty percent the other eighty. The option to Co-Buy can be the make or break that allows people to stay in their community. It mitigates the threats of being priced out (becoming real estate rich cash poor as income decreases with age), removes the threat of potentially predatory lending practices like reverse mortgages or simply going into debt. The potential to have somebody come in and buy half the house and provide cash infusion to maintain the home not only reduces costs but also reduces tax liability and maintenance liability.
Co-Buying with family happens all the time. Granny flats, Mother in Laws and backyard cottages are another to share a yard or create a tenant in common agreement where there’s ownership. A manageable sized house in the backyard of their children’s home can offer intergenerational living for grandma or perhaps it’s not exactly with family, but they can build a tiny home and stay in the community and stay engaged.
A personal story that’s close to home; my mother helped my brother buy house. It has an attached mother in law unit and she’s looking at it as her future security. She will be able to have a place to retire to, should her health fail she’ll have a home, and she’ll have a family that will take care of her.
The Co-Hollow Community in Lake City was featured in the Infiniti Blog in 2017. Here were two families living in a single family home that they tore down and they built four single family houses. They each moved into one and sold off the other two, which brought their own existing mortgages way down. They did this as a community oriented design and most importantly they built it so that they could age-in place. They each built in an affordable complex with each house having an Accessible Attached Dwelling Unit on the 1st level.
The first floor ADU’s on each house offer affordable units that are built in; if they have a mobility or health issue or even a financial issue, they can move into the lower unit and rent out their home above. This is another market approach to Co-Living and Co-Buying on a property together.
Many of these models are trending in the Seattle real estate market, especially as our city increases in density. With Up zone and urban growth maps expanding these models have growing appeal in today’s real estate market. Part of the success of these models is their adaptability; they work for those just entering the real estate market offering opportunities for young people to escape the rent cycle and start investing in their future at a much earlier age making homeownership an attainable dream. It can add income for the family struggling to make ends meet in areas with high costs of living. And, most importantly here, these models provide ways to keep our loved ones close to us, engaged in the community, in the place they want be in as they age.
If you have any questions about Micro-housing, Cooperative housing, Aging in Place, Co-Buying, Co-Purchasing, Shared Housing, or if you have questions about developing your single family home in Seattle contact Eva Otto at Infinti Real Estate and Development.