Richmond Regional Housing Framework



In 2015, PHA worked with Virginia Tech’s Center for Housing Research to produce a study that assessed the Richmond region’s housing needs. As part of the Framework, Virginia Tech conducted a five year update to the 2015 report, providing a thorough outline of our region’s housing challenges and changing demographics. These findings cover both the rental and homeownership market while also examining housing needs by race, age, and income. As a result, the Framework provides a detailed analysis of where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.

Senior Housing Needs

Baby boomers are finally booming into retirement. Seniors are the fastest-growing household type throughout the region. As we prepare for this “age wave,” our housing will need to adapt to the specific needs and challenges of seniors.
Unfortunately, we need to make up lost ground. Decades of sprawling suburban growth have left baby boomers—now with adult children no longer living at home—in “wrong-sized” homes. Even with resources to age-in-place, car-dependent neighborhoods make social isolation a real risk. Retirees seeking smaller homes, single-floor housing options, and neighborhoods where it’s easier to live without a car, often compete with young homeowners and renters seeking the same kind of smaller housing stock and urban amenities.

Seniors are also not immune to economic inequality. Not every retiree has a nest egg to hunt for a new home or condo; many are on low, fixed incomes and are at risk of being “trapped-in-place.” These seniors have significant challenges with deferred maintenance and poor accessibility with limited resources to preserve housing security.

“Some seniors want to live in an apartment. I don’t want to maintain a home anymore, I can’t.”

—Resident of Ashland

Where We’ve Been

Change in Population from 1920 to 2018

Yesterday’s suburban population booms were fueled by sprawling single-family neighborhoods. Today, parents of those families are becoming seniors.

Along with the rest of the nation, Richmond absorbed the baby boom by building out. In the two decades following World War II, the region built nearly double the number of all homes built before then. Most of these were outside the city: between 1950 and 1989, three in four new homes built in the region were for buyers in Chesterfield, Hanover, and Henrico.

Change in Senior Homeowners with Mortgages: 2010 to 2017

Many older adults bought new homes or refinanced in the early 2000s, and many are still carrying significant debt.

Change in Cost Burden Among Senior Renters: 2000 to 2017

In 2000, nearly 40,000 seniors in the region owned their home. Today, that number is 65,000. But the number of mortgage-burdened seniors has more than doubled—from 7,800 to 16,200. More than one in four senior homeowners are financially burdened by their mortgage.

Where We Are

Downsizing baby boomers and first-time homebuyers are both competing with existing seniors.

Age Of Owner-Occupied Homes by Homeowner Age Group

Two in five seniors who own their home live in a house that was built before 1970. These homes are generally smaller and closer to amenities than housing produced more recently. In the City of Richmond, 80% of all homeowning seniors live in a house over 50 years old—just the type of home in extremely high demand. Young and old buyers alike are seeking the same housing stock currently occupied by seniors.

Many senior homeowners are “stuck” in place.

Projected household growth by age: 2020 to 2040

According to a 2018 study by PHA, over 70% of all senior homeowners live in a house valued below $200,000. This lack of equity functionally prevents many seniors from moving into new, age-restricted homes that have an average cost near $340,000. As a result, our senior neighbors are aging in place not necessarily by choice, but because of serious financial constraints.

Seniors who rent their home are very likely to be cost-burdened.

Housing Cost Burden by Age Group

Change in Cost Burden among Senior Renters: 2000 to 2017

Nearly 60% of all senior renters pay more than a third of their income for housing, leaving very little for healthcare, prescriptions, and other necessities. There are over 4,300 more rent-burdened seniors in the region today than in 2000.

Where We’re Going

By 2040, the region will need to help 37,000 new senior households age-in-place or find new homes.

Projected Change in Households by Age Group: 2010-2040

That’s nearly the entire population of Hanover today. There will be five new senior households formed in the region every day for the next twenty years. By 2040, the senior population will have almost doubled since 2010. No matter which way you put it, seniors are growing quickly and significantly. Furthermore, most of this growth will take place in the next decade, rather than the decade after. And, these estimates do not account for potentially major shifts in the number of seniors who may relocate to the Richmond region from elsewhere.

Seniors are increasingly finding themselves in multigenerational households.

Change in Households by Size and Family Type: 2000 to 2017

While the number of senior-led households are on the rise, so are households with two or more generations. Specifically, seniors living with adult children and/or grandchildren. This type of household was very common a century ago and is now becoming more common as demographics change and ample housing becomes harder to obtain. In the Richmond region, the number of seniors living with families where they are not the primary householder has increased by more than 4,000 since 2012.

Policy Implications

Senior and soon-to-be-senior housing demand is shifting to smaller homes near amenities. Will local zoning support this market shift, and will all seniors be able to afford any potential new homes?

There are still many seniors who desire to age-in-place. To keep this population from becoming “trapped-in-place” localities will need to make sure there are ample resources for keeping this population safely and affordably housed, including home modifications and supportive services.

Seniors on limited fixed incomes who rent have high housing insecurity. Whether they are in an assisted living facility or not, seniors in rental housing need additional resources and protections to ensure they are not displaced.

Changes in household structure may require serious land use changes. “Granny flats” and other accessory dwelling units could help alleviate changes in senior housing demand, but such uses require policy reform in order to be adopted in many areas.

Click here to read solutions for helping seniors with their housing needs.

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