Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: September 29, 2023 Senior Resource Guide 2023

Column: Older adult homelessness is spiking

The housing crisis is growing and shows no sign of slowing down, resulting in an increase in the number of unhoused individuals.

Ethan Belding

Last year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development counted around 582,000 Americans experiencing homelessness, approximately 18 out of 10,000 people. The National Alliance to End Homelessness data indicates homelessness rates have been climbing nationally by about 6% yearly since 2017. According to its 2022 State of Homelessness Report, although 18 out of every 10,000 Americans are homeless, that number jumps to 52 for African Americans, 45 for Native Americans, and 109 for Pacific Islanders.

Elder homelessness is also on the rise. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness research indicates, “Seniors over 55 are likely the fastest-growing group of people experiencing homelessness … and for many of them, it is first-time homelessness.”​

From 2009 to 2017, the number of homeless people aged 51 to 61 grew from 14% of the unhoused population nationwide to 18%. The same report found the percentage of unhoused individuals 62 or older nearly doubled during this period, while a 2019 study by University of Pennsylvania researchers who analyzed the populations of shelters in New York City, Los Angeles, and Boston predicted by 2030, the number of people 65 and older who are homeless will nearly triple compared to 2017. ​A lack of affordable, accessible housing inventory drives the rising cost of housing.

In the first quarter of 2023, Freddy Mac reported mortgage originations amounted to $344 billion, their lowest total since the second quarter of 2014. Meanwhile, the National Association of Realtors reported a 16.6% decrease in sales of existing homes between July 2022 and 2023, while the median existing-home sales price broke through $400,000 for the first time in 2023 to $410,200. This figure is the second-highest price on record. A huge reason for the increase in home prices is limited inventory, as people are reluctant to sell. The wealth management firm The Bahnsen Group estimates 92% of Americans have a mortgage below 6% while current mortgage rates are more than 7%. NAR notes 23% of homeowners have a mortgage below 3%, and 61% are below 4%. Even if someone with no mortgage sells their home and realizes a significant profit, they will still have to buy our rent at a much higher rate.

Rents have gone up dramatically over the past few years. About 20,000 of the 205,319 residents of Worcester have difficulty paying rent, and approximately half of the city's residents spend more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities. This corresponds with the U.S. Census Bureau's estimation 19.3% of Worcester residents are persons in poverty. Property website Zillow estimates the median rental price in Massachusetts for August 2023 is $3,100, a $133 increase from August 2022. In Worcester, Zillow estimates the average rent is $1,975, which, though lower than the state average skewed by high rents in the Metro Boston area, is still very expensive. Zillow reported rental rates in Worcester increased by $700 between 2016 and 2022. There have also been reports of rents doubling.

This situation could be more sustainable.

Ethan Belding is vice president of planning and research for Worcester nonprofit Central Massachusetts Agency on Aging, Inc.

Sign up for Enews

WBJ Web Partners


Order a PDF