Are Senior Baby Boomers a Root Cause of the Housing Shortage?

February 14, 2020
senior couple in kitchen looking at tablet together
Photo: Rawpixel

Real estate listings site Trulia conducted a study to examine whether the rise in the number of senior citizens living alone is the root cause of the housing affordability crisis. While the trend of boomers living alone and not downsizing is happening in aggregate across the nation, there’s no such thing as a national housing market. A home for sale in Dallas doesn’t matter to someone looking to buy a home in Chicago, and thus any market forces playing out in Dallas aren’t necessarily playing out in Chicago.

This means that to assess what impact boomers living alone are having on the housing market, one has to look at each city’s housing market individually. Trulia looked at the 100 largest metro markets in the United States to see where boomers are failing to downsize the most and what affordability is like in that city.

They defined “able to downsize” as a senior citizen living in a single-family house by themselves. They plotted the percentage of seniors who were able to downsize in each city against housing affordability in that city. The most expensive cities in the country—New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles—do not have an excess of boomers who can downsize to a smaller house, meaning boomers are not causing affordability problems in the least affordable places.

Furthermore, the cities that have the most boomers who could downsize are among the most affordable in the country, so if they decided to downsize en masse, it wouldn’t alleviate any serious problem.

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