The wave of seniors is coming.

The nation’s 65-years-old and older population will more than double by 2050 to about 88 million, an increase of 120 percent that far outpaces other age groups. That means one in every five Americans will be older than 65, and the number of Americans who are 85 and older will soon more than triple to 19 million.

As a result, the demand for affordable housing and services for seniors will increase dramatically, according to a new report from the Center for Housing Policy.

Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Texas, and Utah have the highest projected percentage growth of 65 and older residents between 2000 and 2030.

“Housing An Aging Population – Are We Prepared?” explores the challenges of providing housing for the growing number of older Americans.

The report points out that older adults are more likely than younger households to spend more than half of their income on housing. One in four households with a member 85 years or older pay at least half of their incomes for housing.

An aging population also means that more seniors will be living with disabilities. As a result, demand for renovations and retrofits to accommodate people with disabilities will likely rise. Demand is also expected to increase for housing with supportive services. However, the supply of community housing and long-term care facilities is unlikely to keep pace with the need.

Another finding shows that renters 85 years and older are more likely than younger renters to live in larger buildings with 21 or more units. These buildings are more likely to have elevators, making them attractive to seniors with mobility impairments.

Multi-unit buildings are also a more cost-effective setting for delivering supportive services.

The report raises concerns that many suburban communities, home to half of all older adults, continue to limit multifamily or group housing. Considering the population trends, “local officials may find growing interest in allowing larger multifamily developments in communities where currently they are not permitted,” says the report.

The report also notes that available federal funding for housing subsidies is failing to keep pace with demand. Currently, only about 24 percent of renters of all ages with housing needs are being reached by federal rental assistance.

“Subsidies will be needed to help ensure that older adults with low and moderate incomes have access to affordable choices, and at present there are far too few of these to go around,” say researchers.

The Center for Housing Policy, the research affiliate of the National Housing Conference, offers several policies changes that would help support seniors to age in place or expand their housing options. By adopting more flexible zoning policies, communities can help foster a range of different housing types, according to the report. Preserving existing affordable rental housing that needs rehabilitation or is at risk of losing its affordability is another key to meeting the seniors housing crunch. And, equally important is to expand funding for the development of new properties.

The study also suggests encouraging universal design in new homes and says it is time to experiment with more “co-housing” efforts.

“For the most part, the strategies are familiar,” says the report. “What is needed is greater urgency in the face of demographic certainty.”

To read “Housing an Aging Population – Are We Prepared?