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Many Older Californians Lack Affordable Housing Options

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Chris Taylor and his kids were sad when Taylor’s mother and stepfather could no longer afford the monthly rent on their mobile home space—which jumped from $325 to $1,300—forcing them to move out of the city of Orange and 65 miles inland to Murrieta.

When Taylor’s mother, Janet Chute, developed dementia, the severity of her illness and the distance became financially devastating for his family. He sold his auto shop so he could drive more than an hour each way to care for his mother, who died last year, at age 79. 

“I was just beside myself,” said Taylor, 55, who has since gotten a job at a medical products company. “That was a really rough time for us.” 

A lack of affordable housing is at the top of the list of the state’s “Master Plan for Aging,” which outlines five priorities for building a “California for all ages by 2030.” The report, which AARP contributed to, says one goal is “housing for all stages and ages,” including parks closer to homes and accessible public transit. 

California ranks fourth among states in how much of their incomes its residents spend on rent: nearly 33 percent, National Association of Realtors data shows.

Learn More: Master Plan for Aging

Highly populated coastal areas are even less affordable and have limited access to parks and public transportation. The plan calls for policies to make it easier to build, to turn vacant property into affordable housing and to ensure communities meet the state’s affordable housing requirements. 

“It’s very important that we begin to lean in and to hold communities accountable” for meeting their affordable housing goals, Lourdes Castro Ramírez, secretary of the state’s Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, said at a Master Plan for Aging virtual summit in January.

The plan’s website,, links local leaders with helpful data, information on successful age-friendly models and other resources. It offers guidance but doesn’t allocate funds or carry legislative authority.

State lawmakers also need to recognize the “obscenely high and growing percentage of our homeless population who are older,” state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) said at the summit. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) recently signed a law extending to June 30 the state’s eviction moratorium for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Fred Buzo, an AARP associate state director in San Francisco, agrees: “If you want to see how the social compact has been broken, just look at the number of older adults on the streets.” A 2019 report that compiled shelter data from Los Angeles County, New York City and Boston projected that their older homeless populations would triple by 2030.

AARP California also issued a report on the issue in January, noting that many older adults are often vocal critics of affordable housing projects.

Some homeowners fear that higher-density development will lead to more crowded conditions and a downturn in quality of life. 

The state needs incremental increases in density, including more duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes, as well as accessory dwelling units (sometimes called granny flats) on existing lots, said Rafi Nazarians, an AARP associate state director in Los Angeles. 

“The state is not looking to build skyscrapers everywhere,” Nazarians said, “but, rather, smaller, incremental changes.” 

Go to or for more information on housing affordability issues.

Barbara Kingsley is a writer living in Long Beach.

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