(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The Baby Boomer generation is starting to retire at rapid rates, but as the number of retirees increase, access to affordable housing is becoming more difficult.
“We have seen a huge jump in the demand for senior housing. Primarily because about 8,000 of us reach that magical number of 62 or older each day in the United States,” St. Joseph Community Development Manager Gerald McCush said.
A majority of retirees are on a fixed income from social security and work pensions. This makes staying in their own homes difficult due to financial obligations and home repair needs.
“It’s tough when you're 80 years old to mow your own grass; scoop your own snow; try to fix the leaky roof,” McCush said.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allots tax credits to pre-approved contractors to build affordable housing for seniors. This allows seniors to live in small, energy efficient apartments for a fraction of what it would cost them to stay in their own homes.
Donna Hamlin says has been fortunate enough to stay in her home after the passing of her husband, but not all senior citizens are as lucky and may not be able take care of larger homes.
“We need a lot more senior housing. We don’t have enough and St. Joseph really has quite a few seniors.There's a lot of them like myself who are widowed or single that they don’t need a big house, they just need a small space to live and take care of,” Hamlin said.
There are currently over 200 people in St. Joseph on waiting lists for various affordable housing units, with the waiting list expecting to grow as more people reach the age of retirement. These units are strictly apartments and do not include meals,utilities or medical attention.
According to the Department of Health and Senior Services, the average cost for an individual in an assisted living facility is $3,628 a month.Unlike senior living facilities the can cost upwards of $3,600 a month, the HUD projects are income driven units specifically designed for seniors living on a fixed income.
According to McCush, unlike low income housing, which requires 60 percent of the individual’s income to be put towards rent, the senior specific housing requires 30 percent of income to go towards rent.
“These are called affordable housing, but they’re certainly not low income housing.One person can make $25,520 a year or less an qualify," McCush said.“It’s on a sliding scale, so the rent is only a maximum of 30 percent of what your income is.”
A couple seeking housing can make up to $29,860 to qualify for affordable senior housing.Housing applicants must submit proof of income before being placed on a waiting list for one of the housing units.
According to McCush there is a cap on the sliding scale for housing, with a maximum rent from one of the proposals capped at $505 per month.
At the Nov. 6 meeting City Council passed resolutions of support for three groups hoping to build senior living facilities in St. Joseph with the help of federal tax credits.
The proposals are waiting to be reviewed by the Missouri Housing Development Commission. If approved, construction is expected to begin in 2018.
If approved Pickett Place plans to expand to a second location at the intersection of Belt Highway and Pickett road with 38 units. Catholic Charities plans to develop 36 senior units at St. Charles Place at 3240 pear St. if approved. JES Development Co. will create Woodbine Meadows, a 48 unit apartment at 102 S Woodbine Road. 48 units in approved.