Senior HousingWhile Senior housing is not a new concept, it is becoming an important topic in the housing industry because of the growing senior population. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that roughly 1 in 7 Americans is over the age of 65 and as 10,000 people turn 65 every day, that number will be 1 in 5 by 2030.

With the rental market tightening, you may find yourself noticing more rental advertisements promoting “55+ Housing Communities”.  This type of age restricted rental listing, intended for senior housing communities, is one of the few circumstances of conditional living allowed by the Federal Fair Housing Act.

Senior housing communities alleviate the stress of home maintenance, provide social amenities, offer convenient transportation options,  and foster an environment of companionship for residents.   Housing providers can offer different types of living options to residents of a certain age with these types of senior housing options.

Senior housing communities are classified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as communities that :

  1. All occupants are 62 or older… or…
  2. 80 percent of the units have at least one tenant that is older than 55 … or…
  3. HUD established the housing development as a senior housing community under some federal, state, or local government program.

Senior housing that meets the criteria above differentiate from personal care facilities and assisted living communities in that specialty care is not necessarily provided to the residents.

A Brief History of Senior Housing

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 made it illegal for communities/landlords to discriminate against potential occupants based on protected classes. The FHA was amended in 1988 to include protection for those with disabilities and the prevention of discrimination based on familial status.

However, in 1995 the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) passed the Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA) in order to preserve communities designed for seniors.

The HOPA established guidelines to clarify what qualified for senior housing including:

  1. Housing must be occupied by at least one person 55 years or older per unit
  2. Eliminated the requirement that housing for older persons have significant services and facilities specifically designed for its elderly residents.
  3. Required that facilities or communities claiming the exemption establish age verification procedures.
  4. Established a good faith reliance defense or exemption against monetary damages for persons who illegally act in good faith to exclude children based on a legitimate belief that the housing facility or community was entitled to the exemption

Types of Senior Housing

Independent LivingResidents live independently and most communities offer amenities, activities, and services. Often, recreational centers or clubhouses are available on site to give seniors the opportunity to connect with peers and participate in community activities.  Since independent living facilities are aimed at older adults who need little or no assistance with activities of daily living, most do not offer medical care or nursing staff.

Low-income or subsidized senior housing – These senior housing complexes are subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for low-income seniors.

Senior apartments These are apartment complexes restricted by age, usually 55 and older. Rent may include community services such as recreational programs, transportation services, and meals served in a communal dining room.

Personal Care Home – Designed for senior who need assistance beyond basic necessities but do not yet need long-term hospitalization.  For a senior with special needs, qualifying for a personal care home can make a huge difference in his quality of life and financial security, as personal care homes are more expensive than traditional rentals due to the additional services provided.

The main difference between independent living and other senior housing options is the level of assistance offered for daily living activities. If one needs help with eating, dressing, and using the toilet, or requires regular medical assistance, other housing options such as assisted living facilities or nursing homes may be a better fit.

Senior Housing and The Federal Fair Housing Act

Housing providers are required to adhere to strict guidelines established by the Fair Housing Act (FHA), and enforced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Fair Housing Act sets specific rules about providing equal opportunity housing to all rental applicants and expressly forbids discrimination based on a protected class, like race, gender, familial status, or sexual orientation.

According to the 2014 Fair Housing Trends report, “rental discrimination far outweighs all other types of housing discrimination reported in the United states.”  While discrimination against these protected classes is illegal in most circumstances, housing that meets HUD’s definition of senior housing can legally exclude families with children. An elderly person who qualifies for housing may be denied senior housing if family members who are not senior citizens are part of her household.

If you are a landlord or real estate investor who wants to establish a senior housing community, Nolo provides an outline for Senior Housing Basics on how to meet the requirements.

Have any experience living in, managing or owning a senior housing community? Let us know about it in the comments!