The Public Interest

Our graying suburbs: solving an unusual housing problem

Irving H. Welfeld

Fall 1986

AT A TIME when housing policy has been focusing on low-income families who are living in poor-quality housing or paying more than they can afford, it is not surprising that little attention has been given to a group that is getting “too much” housing—elderly homeowners. Although they appear to be among the best-housed segments of the population, many of our elderly often find they have more housing than they need or can adequately maintain. This fact is not only a source of difficulty for them, it also creates a new housing dilemma for another segment of the population. The problem results from the reluctance of the elderly, many of whom have purchased their own homes and paid off their mortgages, to relocate, thereby closing off a significant portion of potentially available housing to a new generation of prospective homeowners. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Suburban Population Ages, Causing Conflict and Radical Changes,” summarized the issue as follows:

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