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Opinion
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Guest Column
Older Floridians have trouble making the rent on their fixed incomes | Column
As the over 65 population increases, we as a society will need to find innovative ideas to house and care for our seniors.
A "for rent" sign in front of a home in St. Petersburg.
A "for rent" sign in front of a home in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published May 11

In 1975, Bob Dylan released a song with the constant and catchy refrain, “Come in, she said, and I’ll give you shelter from the storm.” It was a song of hope for a nation in turmoil. President Richard Nixon had resigned from office the previous year, Vietnam had finally ended, and believe it or not the price of shelter, or a house in the United States, cost $35,900.

John Grant
John Grant [ Provided ]

Times have changed, especially the cost of buying a home. Many of us would never have predicted, 47 years later, the kind of housing affordability crisis facing the state of Florida. The median price of a home in Orlando in 2019 was $330,000. Just four years later, it’s $375,000. Those double-digit increases cannot be sustained.

If we stay on this path, there will definitely be no shelter from this storm. Many people will be priced out of living in Florida, especially seniors on a fixed income. Rent prices aren’t much better.

A March 2022 report from Florida TaxWatch, placed the median cost of rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Miami at $2,420, and a two-bedroom at $3,220. That’s about a 34 percent increase over last year.

According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, the biggest expense for seniors is the cost of shelter. In fact, almost 40 percent of seniors 80 and older are paying more than 30 percent of their monthly income on housing. This includes a mortgage or rental payment, along with utility expenses, maintenance and repairs. Most financial experts advise that no one should pay more than 25 percent of their overall income on housing.

Older citizens who can’t make it on their fixed incomes and cannot afford the escalating home prices and inflation are literally sleeping in their cars. The number of homeless seniors is only expected to get worse over the next few years. There is a growing call for rent control in the state.

Gov. Ron DeSantis blames the Biden administration for the outrageous costs. The Biden administration blames Vladimir Putin. What we know for sure, is Florida is in a state of emergency that demands attention from our legislators. And you can bet as the founder of Seniors Across America, I will be working right alongside them to find solutions for seniors.

In the meantime, older folks interested in low-income apartments and condos can reach out to the Good Samaritan Society. This is an evangelical Lutheran organization that provides housing for seniors on a budget.

Another option is an adult family home setting, a type of foster care that involves a group of seniors living in a home environment. These residential homes must be approved, licensed and monitored by the local Department of Family Services.

These are just some of the ways seniors can get help with housing. As the 65 and older population increases, we as a society will need to use these and other alternative innovative ideas to house and care for our seniors so they will have shelter from the storm.

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John Grant is a former state representative and state senator, an estate planning attorney and a member of the National Senior Citizen Hall of Fame. He has spent much of his career working on behalf of seniors and is continuing the advocacy work by heading a new venture called Seniors Across America to continue speaking up for our elderly population. Reach him at john@seniorsacrossamerica.net.

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