Senior Housing Crisis and How Gatekeepers Stifle Active Adult 55+ Housing Opportunity

Old couple enjoying nature park in the forest

I’ve been a residential rental property manager and investor for nearly two decades, well, almost… since 2003.  From furnished corporate rentals, to short term AirBNB and VRBO rentals, to the ubiquitous one year lease, I’ve handled them all. Hundreds of visitors and tenants. I have wild off-the-wall stories, from tenants who skip out in the middle of the night, to stealing from neighbors, domestic violence between residents, to a young female couples menses… all over the furnished bed and couch (nasty, right?)  I’ve always structured rent to reward long term tenants. Always treated tenants like I’d want to be treated, because I was a tenant for the first 25 years of life or so myself. It usually works out. But few stories are paradoxical as trying to rent to the Active Adult 55 and over crowd.

Age-Targeted Rentals: Senior Housing for 55+

Let’s start with what we’re talking about: Restricting residents to 55 years old or greater.  This means renting to folks who are 55+, and not renting to folks under 55+.

There are many reasons for this.  For the residents, some of the benefits include:

  • Building design features and environment built with 55+ in mind
  • Lower maintenance grounds and exteriors
  • Opportunity to be around other seniors
  • Quieter, mostly children free environment

For us, for the builders and managers, our reasons for advertising to 55+ folks include:

  • My wife is a Registered Nurse, and I have experience with caring for elders.
  • In the future, we plan to offer additional services such as meal preparation, medication and doctor reminders, laundry service.
  • There is a huge undersupply of 55+ senior housing.  According to AARP, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every single day!

What the Law Says about Age-Restricted Housing

Older woman looking into distance

The Fair Housing Law, 42 U.S. Code Section 3604, indicates discrimination by race, age, family status, disability, creed, sexual orientation, or income source is illegal under fair housing law.   This law originates way back in 1968.  This would seem to bar advertising to senior citizens.

Of course, there are several other provisions describing additional standards and requirements, but the Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995 (HOPA) specifically allows age-restricted housing and advertising.  The community must be either 100% occupied by residents 62 years of age or greater, or 80% of residents 55 and greater. 

How to advertise and find residents for Active Adult 55+ Rentals

In short, it’s difficult, especially for the small developer with just a few rentals!  We’re in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains, just outside of Asheville, NC.  This is where people come to connect with peace and nature. It seems there are very few age-restricted single family homes or cabins, perhaps for just reason: many seniors are not ‘active’ and require more services, to be close to the doctor, and town.   But there are many seniors who are very active, more so than younger folks.  And that is the need we seek to fulfill.  So let’s get the word out…

Here comes the catch-22.

For-Rent websites like apartments.com, forrent.com, craigslist, no longer have any features to designate and search by age-restricted housing.  Sure, sometimes Assisted Living can be designated – but we are not Assisted Living.  Home rental advertisements are permitted to mention 55+ age-requirement, but there is no way a renter can target or filter for those listings.

Listings prohibited and removed from Realtor.com …Some of the above websites aggregate places for rent and syndicate them across multiple platforms, such as industry giant Realtor.com.  One such aggregator, Cozy.co, indicates their partnership with Realtor.com prohibits age-restricted housing. “They let us know that as this listing is for a specialized community of 55+ only, and as part of their agreement with the MLS’s is to follow the Fair Housing Act, they’re not able to syndicate it due to the age restriction.”

Elderly senior citizen looking out windowSenior Housing Placement Services typically handle facilities that offer more advanced services such as Assisted Living, Memory Care, Nursing Homes, Home Care.  Such Senior Housing Referral companies don’t accommodate more main-stream, Active Adult 55+ rentals without added services.

Senior Citizen Forums who specialize in online senior citizen discussions and listings of senior rentals, like SeniorForums.com Retirement Living Forum, claims “Posts advertising specific houses, condos or apartments for sale or rent which are suitable for senior living are welcome”… but they go on to prohibit anyone under 55 from participating.  What sense is that? All other online senior forums I found also have a strict age prohibition.  Well- I guess we either need to lie about our age or hire someone that’s over 55 to make posts there.  Or, more likely, all the seniors those forums claim to serve won’t be privy to the living opportunities that might be available.

All of these websites and services are cheating their target market out of the very things they need… housing opportunity.  They seem to be missing the mark.

Senior housing shortage while gatekeepers restrict Senior Citizen Housing opportunity

It’s really not about us making a big huge profit.  Sure, we need to make some money. But unlike most Active Adult communities, we’re not seeking any premium for our rental cabins because they’re age-targeted at 55+.  We’re looking to offer luxury accommodation for a reasonable, market-rate rent, to build a community of other folks who will enjoy our beautiful mountains.

55+ Rental handing over keys to tenantWe’re in a highly desirable area of Western North Carolina. This is where many folks pay absolutely rediculous top dollar for a place to stay.  In fact, we could earn about 15% more, and have no problem at all renting, if we were not age-restricted.  And if we chose to do short term rentals, we’d earn about 300% more!

It would seem the very same interweb gatekeepers – the for-rent sites, the senior housing placement services, and online forums – are stopping the word from getting out.  They are stifling opportunities for Active Adult 55+ seniors.  It would seem few property developers like us would be willing to even try.  This is one reason why senior citizens don’t have many housing choices.

So how do we get qualified people to rent?  Perhaps we’ll abandon this plan and just go mainstream AirBNB… another senior housing opportunity lost.  Time will tell.

Our Project: Here’s our Very Active Adult 55+ Rugged Mountain Furnished Annual Rental

These are 12-month leases, and age-restricted at 55 years of age or greater. If you’re a very active senior

  • Just looking for a place for a year, while you explore Western North Carolina while you shop for a house?
  • Seeking to become one with nature, slip back into an earlier time and slow down
  • Want a little adventure and excitement on your way to and from your home, just to see what it’s like?

Then check out our furnished Active Adult 55+ cabins in Western North CarolinaMessage us for specials.

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Phil

Grown up in Cleveland, Ohio, USA., previously lived in Phoenix, Arizona and Tampa, Florida areas, and recently co-located to Asheville, North Carolina area. Trained as an Army MP, but bit of a renegade career wise. Phil has owned businesses in insurance, private investigations, surety bail bond industries, and has experience in computer network engineering, hospitality in-room advertising, asset recovery and repossession, and even a few years traveling most of the lower 48 states, Ontario and Northern Mexico as a commercial over the road truck driver. Career long entrepreneur, property investor and rental manager. Phil loves sharing his experiences of great food, travel, experiences and products.

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