January 19, 2017

National Housing Workshop: Housing a priority issue for people with disabilities and older adults

RTC:Rural collaborator Bryce Ward, Ph.D, presenting at the NAS 2016 housing conference

RTC:Rural collaborator Bryce Ward, Ph.D., presenting at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine December 12, 2016 housing workshop.

RTC staff brought back some important takeaways from the recent national accessible housing workshop in Washington, DC.

RTC:Rural Director Craig Ravesloot, Ph.D. and project collaborator Bryce Ward, Ph.D., Associate Director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana, recently returned from participating in this event that continued the dialog about the importance of housing for the health and quality of life of people who are aging and people with disabilities.

On December 12th, 2016 Drs. Ravesloot and Ward attended the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) workshop, “Affordable and Accessible Housing for Vulnerable Older Adults and People with Disabilities Living in the Community: A Workshop.”  Dr. Ward presented on a panel entitled “Design Features of Accessible Housing for Older Adults and People with Disabilities” while Dr. Ravesloot was on the planning committee for the event and moderated one of the panels.

RTC:Rural Director Craig Ravesloot, Ph.D., shared the following important takeaways upon his return:

1. Housing is a platform for the health of people with disabilities and older adults.

  • People who live in homes that are more accessible and conducive to their needs are more able to live healthier lifestyles.
  • Housing influences community participation, independent living, and overall health and wellbeing.
  • Rates of inaccessible housing for people who use mobility equipment living in rural areas:
    • 59.2% have a stepped entrance
    • 91.0% are upstairs with no elevator
    • 59.5% have no grab bars in the bathroom
  • For those with mobility impairments, more exertion spent bathing is associated with less time spent participating in their communities.


2. The need for affordable and accessible housing will escalate dramatically in the next two decades.

  • The population of the United States is rapidly aging. Households over the age of 70 will increase rapidly in the next decade, followed by significant growth in households 80 and over by 2035.
  • In addition, the likelihood of impairment increases with age.
  • Median income declines with age for nearly all homeowners and renters, regardless of race or marital status.
  • This means that in the next two decades there will be a substantial increase in the number of older Americans with disabilities and lower incomes, and therefore an increase in demand for affordable, accessible housing.


3. Currently, the U.S. housing market has an insufficient supply of affordable and accessible housing, especially in rural America.

  • Consequently, 40-60% of people who are 65 or older and paying monthly rent or mortgage will be rent burdened, paying more than 30% of their monthly income for housing.
  • Homeowners with mortgages and renters have a higher cost burden than homeowners without mortgages.
  • An increased number of older households are carrying higher amounts of mortgage debt into retirement.
  • There will be millions more low-income older households by 2035.
  • Nearly half of older adults are aging in low-density or rural areas that have less accessible housing.

For more information on the RTC:Rural’s research on housing, visit our research pages:

The above information was compiled from RTC:Rural project collaborator Dr. Bryce Ward’s presentation, “Life Starts at Home: Linking Home Environment and Quality of Life for People with Disabilities.” Additional research presented by Dr. Jennifer Molinsky of the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies titled “Older Households 2015-2035: Projections and Implications for Housing a Growing Population” contributed to the compilation of this post.

All the presentations from the workshop are available on the NAS website. To view them, visit the Affordable and Accessible Housing for Vulnerable Older Adults and People with Disabilities Living in the Community: A Workshop website. Each is listed by presenter name on the right side of the screen in the drop-down “Presentations” category under “Other Meeting Resources.”