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Affordability Series - Housing for Older People

by Anne Jardine

All examples cited in this series of articles on Affordability are based on real experiences recounted by East and West Kootenay people living with affordability concerns.

Older people have a different set of affordability considerations. As people retire, their pension income can be much lower than what they once earned. Some people retire without employer pension plans that they have paid into for all their working years. They rely only on their Canada Pension Plan and their Old Age Security Benefits. If they have managed to pay off a mortgage, they own their home free and clear and only need to pay property tax (which can be deferred), utilities, and house insurance.

But the housing issues that face older home owners now have to do with the roof, heating system, plumbing, wiring, and appliances that have reached the end of their life span and require replacing after they have lived in their house through its mortgageable years. Upgrading for energy efficiency can be an affordability issue, but then so can the climbing costs of heating and electricity.

Other housing issues that face older people have to do with accessibility as they age. Their homes may need to be modified to accommodate ramps, handrails, or other safety features they may need to help them maintain their independence. Matters of accessibility are not limited to the elderly. Disabilities can affect people of any age, and living spaces may need to be made more accessible.

Some retired people choose to sell their family home and use the money to downsize to a smaller house or an apartment. If they face medical issues, they may also choose to move to assisted living arrangements or long-term care facilities, and these options may have affordability considerations as well.

Retired people who do not own their homes and who get by on low or fixed incomes have often lived for many years in long-term rentals, and are finding their rents are increasing at a faster rate than they can afford.

A couple in their late 70s, who have lived in Nelson for their entire lives have been renting the main floor of an older house. A family rents the upstairs suite, and a student rents the bachelor apartment in the basement of that same house. The owner has recently sold the property. All the tenants received a three month notification that the new owner will be ‘stripping the house for major renovations.’ The older couple have lived in that suite for over twenty years, and cannot find a new place to rent within their level of affordability. Their friends, their church, and their volunteer activities are based in Nelson.

Will they have to leave their community? Where will they go? How can they afford to pay more?

Read about the New Democratic Party's "Affordability" Commitments in Ready for Better.

Search for "Affordability" in the search bar on this website for other blog posts in the Series.

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