A 64-unit senior housing development proposed for Derby is almost near capacity — and the developer hasn’t even finalized financing.
“There’s a huge need” for affordable senior housing, said Tom Bishop, founder of Homestead Affordable Housing, a nonprofit organization that helps first-time, low-income home buyers and income-bound seniors with housing options. It recently submitted an application for financial incentives for affordable rural development housing available at the state level to build its proposed Derby community.
Annette Graham, executive director of the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging and director of the Sedgwick County Department of Aging, agrees about the need.
“When we look nationally, we know there’s a crisis coming because people as a whole haven’t been saving for housing,” she said.
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When we look nationally, we know there’s a crisis coming because people as a whole haven’t been saving for housing.
Annette Graham, Sedgwick County Department of Aging
It’s been well reported that numbers for America’s senior population are going up, primarily because of the large, aging, baby boomer demographic and because Americans are living longer.
Younger baby boomers, however, are entering the ranks of the aging population with lower income, savings and homeownership rates and more debt than previous generations according to a 2014 aging study by Harvard University and AARP. That might lead to another harsh statistic.
“Agencies are warning we may see a boom in homeless people, too,” as affordability becomes an issue, Graham said.
In 2012, an federal interagency report on aging said one of the most significant issues facing seniors was rising housing costs.
“In 1985, about 30 percent of households with householders or spouses age 65 and over spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing and utilities. By 2009, the proportion of older people with high housing cost burden reached 40 percent,” according to the report.
Social Security benefits, which averages about $1,335 per month, are a major source of income for most elderly.
The rising costs also come at a time when Social Security benefits, which average about $1,335 per month per beneficiary, are a major source of income for most elderly.
For more than half of married couples and almost three-fourths of unmarried older people getting Social Security, the benefits account for at least half or more of their income. For 22 percent of married couples and about 47 percent of unmarried persons receiving Social Security, the benefits account for 90 percent or more of their income, according to 2015 statistics on the Social Security Administration’s website.
With so many seniors income-bound and facing high housing costs, it’s little wonder that programs like public housing or income-based housing often have waiting lists, say experts.
Homestead Affordable Housing’s senior residences at Mulvane, which has 40 units, and Haysville, which has 59, each have waiting lists of about 40 people, Bishop said.
We already have 52 people on the waiting list for Derby, and that’s without doing anything.
Tom Bishop, Homestead Affordable Housing
“We already have 52 people on the waiting list for Derby, and that’s without doing anything,” said Bishop, of the community Homestead Affordable Housing is planning near Rock Road and Tall House Boulevard. He expects construction to start in August.
Income guidelines vary with each development, but one person can make as much as $27,000 to $28,000 a year and qualify for a Homestead apartment.
In addition to Homestead, other organizations such as Mennonite Housing and the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas also offer senior housing in the Wichita area, with rent based on income.
“The biggest need we have is for options for the mid- to low-income population,” said Graham.
That’s why her best advice for anyone is to be a better consumer and start thinking about saving while working to afford housing as a senior and also to consider buying homes that can be suitable for aging in place, with open floor plans, minimal or no steps and other such features.
Where to find senior housing
The Central Plains Area Agency on Aging, one of 11 Area Agencies on Aging in Kansas, maintains a database of senior independent living and assisted living options available in Butler, Harvey and Sedgwick counties.
Every year, a staff member updates the list, making it probably the most comprehensive list of such options in the area, said Annette Graham, executive director of the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging and director of the Sedgwick County Department of Aging.
The list can be found at www.cpaaa.org/housing-options/. Residents or anyone wanting to discuss housing and service options may also call 855-200-2372 to talk to a resource counselor, Graham said.