Jesse Jones

Jesse Jones: Region’s housing crisis hitting seniors

Rents are up for everyone. However, the housing crisis is hitting senior citizens especially hard. Many say they are being priced out and finding it tough to make ends meet.

“I don’t know how a person is supposed to afford a 100% increase,” said an anonymous senior whose rent had just doubled.

She’s elderly, her lease is up, and she’s scared. We’ve agreed to hide her identity because right now, she has nowhere else to go.

“I am afraid of retaliation by either eviction or harassment,” she told us. “And these were always considered low-income apartments for seniors.”

The deal she had for rent is over, and she says it’s now jumping from $1,000 to nearly $2,000 a month. She is one of many seniors stuck paying high rent on a fixed income.

According to the pension rights center, the median income of those 65 plus is $29,000 a year. And the average rent in our area according to Zillow is $2,100 a month. That doesn’t give seniors much to live on month to month.

According to AARP, the total predicted evictions for people 55 and older has jumped in King, Pierce, Snohomish, Skagit, and Kitsap counties over the past five years. Statewide numbers show a 57% rise in the same time frame.

Even for those who find housing, times are exceedingly tough.

If a household spends more than 30% of its income on housing, it is deemed a cost burden, while 50% is considered severely cost-burdened.

Charles King was forced to move from a SHAG Apartment to the Lillian Rice Building, owned by the non-profit Sound Generations, because of his extreme rent burden.

“I get $1,600 a month social security, my rent at SHAG was $1,350 a month. So, it left me with, what? $300 for electricity, cable, phone, gas. Really tough to make it.” Now, his rent is $950.

Jim Wigfall is the CEO of Sound Generations. It owns and runs the building and provides everything from senior centers to transportation and food security programs.

“We have 25 units, 5 on each floor and a mixture of one-bedroom apartments and studios,” said Jim.

The building is now full. And the group says it does not receive any government funding to operate the apartments.

When you have individuals on a fixed income, you know, they’re just barely making it. So, as the costs continue to rise, it’s making the challenge even greater for them,” he told us.

”The skyrocketing rent is one of the number one issues that I hear about,” said Cathy McCaul, Advocacy Director of the AARP.

According to her, fixed incomes and a moving demographic storm are headed straight toward seniors.

“Eventually, there will be more people over 65 in this state than under 18. That’s right around the corner – sometime between 2030 and 2050. So, we have an aging population and no infrastructure to accommodate that,” said Cathy.

To stem this severe shortage, AARP is fighting for better zoning laws to allow more mother-in-law homes or ADUs. Cathy’s most frightening statistic is this, in Snohomish County’s most recent homeless count 1 out 5 was age 55 or older.

“That is a canary in the coal mine, and I think we should all wake up and take notice because that is an indicator that we’re going to look back and say, ‘we had warning about this crisis and it’s hitting us right now,’” said Cathy McCaul.

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