Affordable Housing and Seniors


After having spent a whole life in a community, investing in its neighborhoods, sending your kids to its schools, working in its shops – it’s natural to want to age in place, and be surrounded by the familiar. There might be more logistical concerns as well, as older adults want to stay near doctors they know, and resources they trust. However, with the rising cost of living and unique concerns of aging, aging in place in Alexandria is a concern for many.

Living on a fixed income as rents rise

The average social security check issued nationwide today totals around $1,400 – with $1,440 in Virginia, and $1,340 in D.C.[1] In 2016, the Social Security Administration calculated that 21% of married recipients and 43% of single recipients over age 65 depended on social security for over 90 percent of their income.[2]

Meanwhile, the Fair Market Rent in the D.C. metro area for a one-bedroom unit (and not one necessarily equipped for senior living) is $1,561. To afford this unit in the traditional sense (by spending less than 30% of one’s income on rent), a single senior bringing in the average Virginia social security check would need to find an additional $3,763/month from other retirement income sources, generous family members, or part-time work.[3]

Social Security income might rise by 1-2% annually, but that can be easily dwarfed by increasing costs of housing, especially in major metro areas. Year-over-year rent went up by 2% nationwide in 2017, but by 3.2% in Fort Worth, TX; 4.7% in Denver, CO; and a whopping 5.8% in Orlando, FL.[4]

(And while other retirement earnings vehicles might be in the picture, it’s not the story for everybody: 42% of seniors indicate a pension plan is not a part of their retirement earnings, and a 401k or similar retirement savings account is not a factor for 38% of seniors.[5])

For seniors looking for greater care from their living spaces, the national median monthly cost of Assisted Living Facilities is $3,750. Medicare will not cover these costs, though Medicaid and VA benefits will.


Needs of seniors in retirement age living spaces
Where one ages is critically important, as it has long term effects on the accessibility of care and resources. Units designed with elders in mind feature no-step entrances, lever based faucets, wider hallways for walking aids, single floor living, lower-reach appliances, and more.[6] Access to medical care, transportation, and grocery resources is important, especially as seniors may face losing their driving capabilities, and being able to access community resources, places of worship, and variety of places to visit is vital to well-being. In assisted living facilities, some of these resources are coordinated, but for those wishing to age independently at home it may require more effort.

According to HUD, fewer than 4% of US residential units are accessible for individuals with mobility disabilities, and 44% of households need some type of accessibility modification to use their homes without difficulty.”[7] These modifications for seniors as they age can be costly, even prohibitively so even for those who own their homes outright.


Housing affordability is truly a family issue – impacting the well-beings of children, parents, and seniors in unique ways. Increasing our affordable and accessible stock will be imperative as the US population ages upwards.

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[3] FMR is $1,561, or $18,732 annually. It takes an income of $62,440 to spend less than 30% of income on this rent. If the average SS check for a single earner in VA is $1,440, or $17,280/year, you need to earn an additional $45,160 to make $62,440, or about $3763/month.