Peel Advisory Working Group on Older Adults' Housing
Housing Needs and Options of Older Adults in Peel Region: Final Report
Older adults 55 years and older are quickly becoming one of the fastest growing segments of the population. To address these changing demographic trends, the Region of Peel established an inter-departmental team (Housing and Property, Planning and Social Services) to study the housing needs of older adults and to identify potential solutions. Peel Region is one of the first regions in Ontario to undertake this type of study.
The focus of this two-part study is on people who can live independently in the community with or without support services. The first part of the study, Housing Needs and Options of Older Adults in Peel Region: Background Report, was released in May, 1999. The second part, a Technical Report, released in November, 1999, projected the need for housing of various forms and tenures for older adults over the next 5, 10 and 20 year period. It also included an analysis of the need for affordable rental and ownership housing for older adults today and in the future.
In addition to an extensive literature review and analysis of data pertaining to the housing needs of older adults, there were considerable opportunities for input from stakeholders. Interviews were held with 15 individuals from agencies that deal with older adults. A Stakeholder Workshop was held on October 2nd ,1998, and was attended by 48 participants. A Community Meeting was held on November 15, 1999 to present the findings of the technical analysis and preliminary recommendations and was attended by approximately 25 individuals. A meeting with a similar focus as the Community Meeting was also held with representatives from the Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga Planning Departments on January 12, 2000.
What is Affordable Housing for Older Adults?
While this study is not focused on affordable housing alone, housing affordability is a major issue, especially for some tenants. Traditionally, housing is determined to be affordable if it does not consume more than 30% of gross household income. In this study, "affordable housing" means ownership and rental housing that is affordable to low and moderate income owner and tenant households. (These households are discussed in Section 3 of the Technical Report.) The term, thus, includes subsidized housing in which tenants pay on a rent-geared-to-income basis, as well as private market rental and ownership housing.
Demographic and Housing Trends
- In 1996, there were 126,700 older adults in Peel Region representing 15% of the population. By 2021, there will be almost triple this number, or 377,200 persons aged 55 years and older, representing 28% of the population.
Source: Region of Peel Planning Department
- Most older persons live independently in their own dwellings and prefer to do so as long as possible. Over three quarters or 76% of households headed by an older adult own their own home although the proportion who own declines with age. Recent data from Statistics Canada shows that between 1991 and 1996, the proportion of older adults who lived in ownership housing increased slightly; however, this type of information will need to be monitored to see if this was a reflection of a certain point in time or a longer-term trend.
- The demand for rental housing is anticipated to increase with the aging of the population, although this increase may be partially offset by more older adults opting for alternatives such as condominium apartments and life lease developments.
- The majority (70%) of older persons in Peel live in ground-related housing (single-detached, semi-detached and townhouses) and over half live in single detached dwellings. The remaining 30% of older person households live in high-rise and low-rise apartment buildings. As the age of the household maintainer (or head of the household) increases, older persons are more likely to live in apartments.
Future Housing Requirements
- Over the next 10 years, there will be a need for 50,300 additional housing units for older adults aged 55 years and older. Over this time period, there will be a need for 38,100 owned units (three quarters of the total need) and approximately 12,200 rental units (a quarter of the total need). (Note numbers have been rounded to nearest 100.)
- During this same period, there will be a need for 34,800 additional ground-oriented dwelling units (single family, semi-detached and row housing) and 15,500 apartments (high and low rise) for older adults.
- Over the longer term, i.e., over the next twenty-year period, there will be a need for 112,400 additional units for older adults - 84,000 owned units and 28,400 rental units.
- Over this period, there is a need for 75,900 additional ground-oriented units and 36,500 apartments.
Income Trends and Housing Affordability
- In general, Peel's older adults are relatively affluent. In part, this is due to the broad definition of older adults that has been used in this study - which includes those who are at the peak of their earning capacity. The lowest incomes are found among older adults who rent and are 65 years or older - the traditional age of retirement. The incomes of female-headed households are lower than those of male-headed households in all age groups. The lowest incomes among older adults in Peel are found among female tenants 65 years of age and over. In 1996, such women had an average household income of $21,100.
- The most serious housing affordability problem is experienced by older adults who rent. Half of all tenants where the household maintainer is 55 years or older are paying 30% or more of their income on rent; 31% are paying 40% or more of their income on rent; and 21% are paying 50% or more of their income on rent. Older adult tenants have relatively low incomes with 41% having incomes of less than $20,000.
- Depending upon the measure used to determine when a tenant household has an affordability problem, between 30% and 40% of older future tenants need affordable rental housing. This will translate into an additional 3,675 to 4,899 units over the next 10 years (368 to 490 annually) and 8,543 to 11,391 units over the next twenty years (427 to 570 annually).
- Owners are relatively more affluent with an average household income of $60,300. Forty-one per cent (41%) of owners have annual household incomes of $40,000 or less and 18% have annual incomes of less than $20,000. If there were more opportunities in Peel for older adults to move into smaller units or to "downsize", this would provide those who choose to do so with an opportunity to free up the equity they have built up in their current dwelling. They could then invest such money into income-producing assets and use a portion of it to invest in a smaller unit. Based on the affordability analysis in this report, there is a need to develop more affordable housing options for older adults with low and moderate incomes. Such units should be priced at between $100,000 and $160,000.
- There is a need to conduct research on the housing preferences of older adults living in Peel through focus groups and/or survey research.
Housing and Related Issues
During the course of this study, a number of issues were identified as discussed below:
- Choice of Dwelling Type and Size - There is a need for more choice in dwelling types and sizes suited to the needs of different market segments of older adults, especially in Caledon where choice is very limited. Also, more larger homes are needed that can be subdivided to respond to the housing needs of immigrant older persons living in extended families.
- Housing Affordability - The lack of affordable rental housing is the primary housing affordability problem for older persons in Peel. Waiting lists for assisted housing are long and private rental accommodation is quite expensive and characterized by low vacancy rates. Many of the new ownership developments for older adults are oriented to the upper end of the market.
- Transportation - As individuals age, their physical mobility often declines resulting in an increased need for accessibility to public transportation and/or an assisted form of transportation such as Transhelp. Transportation is especially a problem in Caledon where there is no public transportation and many older adults are dispersed throughout rural areas.
- Isolation - As a result of a number of factors such as declining income and retirement from employment, often accompanied by declining physical mobility, many older adults are very isolated and often suffer from loneliness.
- Support Services - There is a growing need for support services to enable older adults to continue to live independently in their own dwellings.
- Physical Design Considerations - Physiological and physical changes experienced by older persons require changes in site layout and planning, as well as in unit design. Also, there will be an increased need for accessible units and buildings as the population ages.
Range of Housing Solutions
During the study, a number of different housing options were reviewed. These options are outlined below and are described in detail in the Background Report with local examples where possible.
Housing options for older adults in Peel include:
- Continue to Live in Existing Homes through:
- Accessory Apartments, Home Sharing and FlexHousing Design- to provide additional income and/or companionship and assistance with maintenance;
- Reverse Mortgage or Home Equity Conversion Mortgages - to generate additional income from built-up equity in homes;
- Garden Suites - located as a temporary use on the property of a child or grandchild of the older adult household;
- "Move Down" Housing in Freehold or Condominium Developments - smaller dwellings into which older adults who are currently living in larger, hard-to-maintain homes can move;
- Seniors' Non-Profit, Co-operative and Public Housing - older adults can move into non-profit, co-operative or public housing suited to, or geared exclusively to, older adults (however, there is no government funding for new projects);
- Innovative Financing and Tenure Arrangements such as Life Lease or Equity Co-operatives which enable a non-profit organization to target a building to older adults and provide a limited return to purchasers;
- Millennium Community Building Projects - the Millennium Community Building Association encourages the development of innovative housing combined with services for older adults in smaller developments throughout Ontario;
- Co-housing - enables groups of older adults to design their "intentional community" to meet their needs and preferences;
- Abbeyfield Housing - non-profit shared housing for older adults with private rooms, shared eating facilities and a live-in housekeeper;
- Retirement Communities including both Active Retirement Communities and Continuing Care Communities. The former is more oriented to "younger" and more active older adults while the latter provides for a range of older adults but enables them to move to higher levels of support care as required.
The following recommendations are based on the Stakeholder Workshop, as well as the literature review and interviews with agencies and individuals who work with older adults across the Region of Peel, the Community Meeting and the special meeting with the local Planning Departments:
Partnerships to Develop Affordable Housing for Older Adults
- The Region of Peel should establish an Advisory Working Group on Older Adults' Housing consisting of up to 20 individuals with representation from the following:
- the older adult community and/or their representatives (e.g., family members);
- the federal, provincial (including the Seniors' Secretariat), regional and local governments (staff and political representatives), with appropriate support from Regional Departments;
- the private real estate and development sectors;
- the social housing sector;
- the faith communities;
- social service agencies;
- the Halton-Peel District Health Council;
- unions; and,
- major corporations, financial institutions and pension funds.
The composition of the Advisory Working Group should be such that it includes representation from various ethno-cultural groups and major geographic areas of Peel including rural and urban areas, as well as at least one individual with expertise in gerontology. In addition, there should be an opportunity for observers to attend meetings.
The primary mandate of this group is to develop and promote ways of meeting the current and future need for appropriate affordable rental and ownership housing for older adults in Peel Region.
- One of the first tasks of the Advisory Working Group is to develop a strategic plan to address these recommendations including a work program identifying the short and long-term tasks of the Working Group.
- The Advisory Working Group should promote the development of pilot projects illustrating different options for older adults' housing using a partnership approach. The first such pilot project should focus on affordable rental housing.
- As part of its mandate, the Advisory Working Group should develop strategies to identify and overcome the barriers to the development of appropriate affordable older adults' housing in the Region of Peel.
Meeting the Need For Affordable Housing for Older Adults
- The Region should set a minimum ten-year target of 3,675 additional affordable rental units geared to older adults for the period 2001 to 2011. This is in addition to the existing housing needs of older adults waiting for subsidized units in the Region of Peel estimated conservatively at 2,355 households. Further research is needed to verify the latter as described in recommendation #30.
- The Region of Peel should request the Provincial and Federal governments to provide funding for the development and rehabilitation of affordable rental housing for older adults, particularly through programs targeted to the not-for-profit housing sector.
- The Region of Peel should work with local municipalities and the development industry to identify how to encourage the construction of affordable ownership housing targeted to the lowest 40% of the income distribution of older adult owners who have built up considerable equity in their own homes.
- The Region should investigate opportunities for providing affordable ownership housing for older adults who do not have equity in their current homes.
- Regional and local municipal staff should work collaboratively with the private and social housing sectors to consider ways to reduce the costs of developing affordable housing for older adults and identify the potential regional and municipal role in reducing such costs.
- The Advisory Working Group should work with the private sector, unions, charities and the faith communities to identify potential non-government funding sources for the development of older adults' housing.
- Regional Planning and Housing staff should work with local municipal, provincial and federal agencies to identify publicly owned sites which could be used for affordable older adults' housing. These sites should include small parcels of 2 to 3 acres as well as larger ones. Faith communities and charitable organizations with land should also be involved in this endeavour.
- The Region of Peel Planning Department and Peel Living staff should investigate the potential for intensification on existing Peel Living housing sites.
- Peel Living staff should investigate ways to increase the proportion of rent-geared-to-income units within Peel Living seniors' projects.
Planning and Design
- The Advisory Working Group should work with local planning departments, developers and agencies serving older adults and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to establish design guidelines for older adults' housing covering such topics as house form, site layout, locational criteria and how to make dwellings and developments that are accessible to individuals as they age. As much as possible, design guidelines should emphasize the importance of developments that incorporate the principle of general accessibility.
- The Region of Peel should work with the cities of Brampton and Mississauga to investigate ways to promote the provision of accessory apartments and garden suites (sometimes called granny flats).
- Peel Living should undertake a pilot project for an older adults' housing design retrofit to demonstrate best practices in collaboration with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
- The Region should investigate alternatives to creating new housing (e.g., conversion of larger homes for Abbeyfield type of congregate living).
- The Region should support a pilot project involving an Abbeyfield type of development.
- The Advisory Working Group should work with the private sector and other interested parties to host a series of workshops on alternative designs for older adult housing including bungalows, single floor row houses and cluster housing.
Support Services and Housing
- The Region of Peel should work with other relevant agencies to actively advocate for and promote the development and provision of appropriate support services. (For example, providing affordable transportation geared to older adults which is an alternative to existing public transportation and providing support services as efficiently as possible, such as to clustered housing in rural settlements).
- The Region of Peel should work with other relevant agencies to advocate for additional supportive housing, including supportive housing for frail seniors, to respond to the growth in such needs from the older adult population.
- The Region of Peel should work with other relevant agencies to develop an approach towards a continuum of housing and support services to promote aging in place.
- The Region of Peel should support approaches to older adults' housing that incorporate sharing of facilities, support services and the development of a supportive social environment (e.g., Abbeyfield-type housing, life leases, non-profit housing, co-operative housing and co-housing models).
Communication and Education
- The Region of Peel, in conjunction with interested groups, should develop a Consumers' Guide to Housing Options for Older Adults in the Region of Peel which is clear, concise and in an accessible format. Such information should be provided in hard and electronic copy. In developing this guide, the Region should work with the Peel Information Systems Group which is creating a website information base through the Brampton Library.
- The Advisory Working Group should meet with representatives of older adults from different ethnic and cultural groups to discuss ways that the housing needs of older adults from these groups could be better addressed.
- The Advisory Working Group should sponsor educational workshops for older adults on matters of interest such as reverse mortgages and accessory apartments in partnership with appropriate organizations.
- The Region of Peel should simplify access to the delivery system for housing for older adults in Peel and consider the Community Care Access Centre approach as a model.
Research and Monitoring
- The Region of Peel should monitor the changing needs and preferences of older adults in the Region through data from Statistics Canada and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and by conducting research in collaboration with local municipalities on housing preferences in the Region of Peel through surveys and/or focus groups.
- The Region of Peel should work with older adult groups and agencies serving older adults, including the Halton-Peel District Health Council and the Peel Social Planning Council, to determine a percentage of income that is appropriate for older adult renters to spend on housing.
- The Region of Peel should collaborate with Peel Access to Housing and conduct research to verify the current need for subsidized rental housing for older adults based on an analysis of the various waiting lists of seniors' social housing projects in the Region.