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Lawmaker worries affordable housing options can’t handle Georgia’s expected senior boom

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Legislation would create a committee to combat dearth of housing, issue of “senior orphans”

Mercy Housing recently cut the ribbon on Chamblee’s newest housing complex.
In April, Mercy Housing cut the ribbon on an affordable housing complex for seniors in Chamblee.
Jeff Roffman Photography

In 2016, there were roughly 1.3 million people 65 and over living in Georgia.

By 2040, that number could reach nearly 3 million.

That’s according to research by state Rep. John LaHood, a Republican representing Valdosta who’s pushing legislation that would create a House committee focused on studying affordable housing options for senior citizens.

According to LaHood’s proposal, House Resolution 533, the number of Georgians 65 and up living below the poverty line was 134,000 in 2016—about 10 percent of the population.

And because of declining birth rates in the United States, more and more of those people are becoming “senior orphans” without families to support them.

“Currently, there’s not enough affordable housing for our seniors,” said Vicki Johnson, chair of the Georgia Council on Aging, which was created by the Georgia General Assembly in 1977, according to a news release. “But what’s going to happen in the not-too-distant future, when Georgia’s 65-and-older population is expected to double?”

If LaHood’s resolution passes, it would create the House Study Committee on Innovative Financial Options for Senior Living, a five-person panel dedicated to analyzing the current state of Georgia’s affordable senior living options and recommending legislation that could improve those conditions.

Nationwide, just 16 percent of retirees consider themselves “very confident” that they can afford longterm care, according to an Employee Benefits Research Institute study cited in the resolution.

And when senior citizens aren’t eligible for affordable housing and services, many times they end up in nursing homes, costing taxpayers to help house people who likely “do not want to spend their final days in a nursing home,” said Johnson.

Although more affordable options for seniors would be welcome statewide, a few developments on that front have popped up around ITP Atlanta lately.

In April, Mercy Housing Southeast, a nonprofit that develops and runs affordable housing communities, opened the Senior Residences at Mercy Park, a 79-unit apartment complex in Chamblee catering to people 62 and older.

In July, ground broke on Adair Court, a senior housing facility in Adair Park that’s slated to earmark 77 of its 91 units for affordable living.

Also on the rise is the Legacy at Vine City, which will offer more than 100 affordable units to seniors on the Westside.