AGING U.S. HOMES REQUIRE ADDITIONAL INVESTMENT
A report released by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies shows that the nation’s homes are older today than at any time ever recorded and in growing need of critical replacements and maintenance. Greater investment is also needed to better prepare against disasters, improve energy efficiency, and meet the accessibility needs of an aging population.
Most homes lack features that make them accessible for people with limited mobility. Nearly 2 million homeowners aged 55 and over pursued projects for accessibility in 2020 and 2021, but many more will need to make these modifications as the number of older adults and multigenerational households increase in the coming decades. “The need for accessibility improvements will be especially high in the Northeast and Midwest, regions of the country with relatively older homes,” says Abbe Will of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Center. “These modifications can be costly, and filling the growing need will require greater investments in programs that offer grants or low-cost loans to lower-income households.”
“While many homes require critical replacements and repairs, those most in need of updates are often occupied by households least able to afford the expense,” says Chris Herbert, Managing Director of the Center. “Deteriorating homes threaten the health and safety of older, lower-income homeowners, while the burden of high improvement and repair costs jeopardize the current stock of affordable housing.” On average, homeowners with incomes of less than $32,000 in 2021 spent the equivalent of 20 percent of their incomes on improvements and maintenance, almost twice the share for all owners.
Although home remodeling faces many headwinds in the near term, including rising interest rates, declining home sales, and labor and material supply constraints, the market is more reliant on need-to-do projects than during the boom of the mid-2000s. Ultimately, there will always be a need to improve and repair the nation’s homes, and a demand for the industry that fills that need. (jchs.harvard.edu/press-releases)