Los Angeles is one of the most expensive housing locations in the United States. Clearly, this places a major fraction of the Los Angeles population in a very challenging situation to find and maintain an adequate residence. California has the highest percentage of costburdened households in the US, nearly three-fifths spend more than one-third of their income on rent (Padilla-Frausto and Wallace, 2015). High housing costs imposed by insufficient housing supply requires trade-offs for many older adults in meeting their personal needs for food sufficiency, medical care, in-home assistance and recreational choices (Joint Center for Housing Studies, 2015). The problem is most acute for lower income older adults in Los Angeles, especially minorities, because housing is in short supply, and pressure for housing fosters gentrification and displaces lower income people. Heightening this dilemma, many older adults rely almost wholly on social security for income yet the amount received is not adjusted for cost of living, a big disadvantage for lower income people residing in a very high cost region such as Los Angeles.(American Community Survey, 2013)
Lower income people devote a disproportionate income for housing, and with the housing scarcity in Los Angeles, the situation is truly of crisis proportions. This is underscored the slice of our respondents that were very low income, about 36% with less than 25K annual income in the PALA survey. Whereas older adults usually desire independence and want to live in their own residence, declining resources and increasing functional limitations may force alternative living arrangements.
As lower income people leave the work force by choice, or due to incapacity or lack of opportunity, they may be pressured to move into substandard housing in undesirable circumstances, or seek alternatives with others such as family members, which are not always preferable, sustainable, or viable solutions. The housing crisis for older adults is national in scope and well documented (Vega and Wallace, 2016). The integration of housing into the larger discourse of liveable communities emerges from the awareness of its essential role in promoting quality of life (Gitlin, 2017). Adequate housing creates a platform for older adults to stay socially engaged and connected, as well as offering an environment to manage health needs. According to US Census data, older adults today reaching 65 years of age are more likely than ever to survive an additional 20 years or more, yet at this time there is little attention to advancing national and state policies for increasing subsidized housing for older adults in their transition into old age that can support long and healthy life spans.
Assess and enhance current efforts to prevent and address homelessness among older adults as part of County and City Homeless Initiatives.
The County and City have both adopted major, multi-year Homeless Initiatives to address homelessness throughout the region. More than 20% of homeless individuals in the County of Los Angeles are older adults. Consistent with the Motion adopted by the Board of Supervisors on May 15, 2018, the County and City should examine current efforts to address homelessness through their respective initiatives, and where gaps are discovered, identify and implement new strategies to expand inclusion of the older adult population.
Develop a Rent “Gap Assistance” Program for medium and low-income older adults.
Older adults in Los Angeles County have among the lowest median incomes in California, with roughly one-third living below 200% of the federal poverty line, making it difficult for them to afford rent, repairs, and other housing expenses in the regional housing market, which is one of the most expensive in the nation. In addition, older adults may need retrofitting and assistive devices to remain safely in their homes as they age. About one-fifth of community respondents to the PALA Survey reported having assistive devices, such as ramps, chair lifts or elevators installed in their places of residence.
Promote land use policies to support aging in place.
It is critical that the needs of older adults are prioritized as the County develops and updates land use policies and requirements. This may include use of form-based codes, which focus on the desired physical form of a community, rather than the separation of uses, and can be used to promote livable, age-friendly communities that integrate diverse housing types and mixed-use developments; universal design, which ensures housing can be used by people throughout their lifespan; and multigenerational urban planning, which incorporates an age-friendly approach into community development, so that communities have the features and resources to support aging in place.