Housing Insecurity Report: Worst States for Seniors Struggling to Pay Rent

In this Guide...

U.S. Census Bureau data released Aug. 11, 2021 reveals hundreds of thousands of seniors in parts of the country may not be able to pay their rent next month. Our report explores which state's seniors are struggling the most and how the nationwide eviction moratorium may affect these vulnerable older adults.

Rear view of two women comforting each other with embrace
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Key Findings

 

  • Nearly 35% of senior adults in Colorado are only slightly confident or not at all confident in their ability to pay next month’s rent.

  • Over a quarter of the senior population in 7 states (CO, WV, GA, MS, NY, FL, VA) expressed having no or only slight confidence in their ability to pay their next month’s rent.

  • The states where seniors reported the highest levels of confidence in being able to pay their rent included Connecticut, Idaho, Oregon, New Mexico and Arizona.
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Study Overview

Millions of older adults across the country are reporting they’re worried they won’t be able to pay next month’s rent. In some states, roughly one-third of the senior population is reporting this lack of confidence, indicating a potential housing crisis for a great many senior citizens. 

On the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issuing an extension to its nationwide eviction moratorium on August 3rd, we analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data to determine which states’ senior populations are reporting the highest and lowest levels of housing security. 

"Any elderly person facing an eviction notice should seek the services of government housing attorneys provided by the land or housing court with jurisdiction over their case. Those attorneys can provide valuable free advice as to how to negotiate with the landlord."

- Paul Donovan, CPA, Real Estate Broker and Attorney at Law

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10 States Where Seniors Are the Least Confident in Ability to Pay Rent

In Colorado, West Virginia, Georgia and Mississippi, more than 30% of each state’s respective senior population express only slight confidence or no confidence at all in their ability to afford their next rent payment.

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Graphic Showing States Where Seniors Are Struggling the Most to Pay Rent

At least one in five seniors in 13 states reported having no confidence or only slight confidence in their ability to pay rent next month.

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10 States Where Seniors Report the Highest Confidence in Ability to Pay Rent

On the opposite end of the data are the states where seniors have the highest levels of confidence that they will be able to make their next rent payment. These states include Connecticut, Idaho, Oregon, New Mexico and Arizona among the top five.

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States Where Seniors Are Most Confident in Ability to Pay Rent

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Many Seniors Are Vulnerable Despite CDC Eviction Moratorium

The eviction moratorium imposed by the CDC protects renters from eviction due to late or missing rent payments. But the latest extension of the moratorium, which was implemented Aug. 3rd and lasts until Oct. 3rd, is not as broad as previous moratoriums that date back to March 2020.

The newest eviction ban applies only to counties with substantial or high-level community transmission of COVID-19. And while that includes more than 80% of the counties in the U.S., it still leaves millions of senior adults vulnerable to eviction. 

Attorney, CPA and licensed real estate broker Paul Donovan of Donovan Legal PLLC encourages seniors to negotiate with their landlord while they look for other housing options.

"Most landlords are willing to negotiate and be reasonable with their elderly tenants," says Donavan. "Delay the eviction process as long as possible while you negotiate with the landlord. If a resolution is not possible a court will almost always give a senior an enormous amount of time to find new housing. The court will also provide contacts for seniors to secure government assistance for housing."

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Top Factors That May Be Contributing to Senior Housing Vulnerability

What factors may be contributing to the startling number of older adults who fear they may not be able to afford next month’s rent payment? 

1. High Senior Unemployment Rates

As of May, the U.S. unemployment rate for adults ages 55 and over stood at 4.9%. Seven of the 10 states where seniors reported the lowest levels of housing confidence had unemployment rates at or above the national average as of May 2021, suggesting a possible role that unemployment may be playing in the ability of older adults to afford their rent during the pandemic. 

However, six of the 10 states that are home to seniors with the highest level of confidence in their ability to pay rent also had unemployment rates at or above the national average, making a direct correlation less discernible.

2. State Housing Protections

Prior to the federal extension of the current eviction moratorium, some states had already put their own eviction moratorium extensions into place that protected renters from evictions, utility shutoffs or other consequences of late or missing payments. 

New York was the only one of the 10 states with the lowest levels of senior rent confidence that had implemented its own eviction moratorium prior to the federal extension. 

None of the 10 states with the highest levels of rent confidence among seniors had its own protections in place prior to the extension, suggesting there may not be a direct correlation between state moratoriums and rent confidence among seniors. 

3. Cost of Living

The cost of living among retirees varies by state, and that variance can play a role in the confidence level of a senior making next month’s rent payment.

However, just two of the 10 most expensive states for retirees ranked among the 10 states with the lowest level of confidence among seniors to pay their rent. Meanwhile, an equal number of states with the lowest cost of living for retirees also ranked among the 10 states with the lowest confidence levels.

4. Emergency Rental Assistance

Two COVID-19 stimulus packages combined to pass a total of $46 billion to renters and their landlords for emergency rental assistance. However, just 11% of that money has actually reached those households.

Among the 10 states with the lowest levels of confidence among seniors to pay next month’s rent, four have distributed less than 5% of the funds. 

However, there were also four states among those with the highest levels of confidence among seniors to pay next month’s rent that have also distributed less than 5% of the emergency rental assistance money.   

5. The COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus has been a catalyst for high unemployment rates. But how much of a role has the pandemic itself played in people’s fears about being evicted due to not being able to pay rent?

Just four of the states with the lowest levels of senior rent confidence ranked among the 20 states with the highest eviction rates in 2016, four years before the pandemic struck, suggesting the pandemic may have played a role in diminishing rent confidence in states that did not previously have high eviction rates. 

However, five of the states with the highest confidence levels among seniors already had eviction rates that ranked inside the top 20 nationally prior to the pandemic. 

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Conclusion

A startling percentage of U.S. seniors lack confidence in their ability to afford their next rent payment. While factors such as unemployment, state eviction moratoriums, local cost of living, distribution of rental assistance and the COVID-19 pandemic may be playing a role, a preliminary analysis of data does not make any conclusive correlations.

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Methodology

The data used for this report came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, specifically Week 34 (July 21 through August 2), the most recent data available.

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