This report series is intended to supply the region with facts needed to inform an ongoing dialogue among policymakers, housing professionals, and the public about the housing challenges facing our area.
We begin this year’s report with an analysis of the most current data on economic and housing trends in New Orleans and the surrounding parishes. Then we explore the significant demographic shifts that have taken place in our region since 1980, and provide a set of three different scenarios for the projected household mix in New Orleans by 2020. We end the report with a discussion of the policy options that can align the city’s development over the next several years to the projected regional demographic mix, with the aim of attracting and retaining as many households as possible.
The New Orleans regional economy has performed better than the national economy since 2008 — supported by an infusion of federal dollars for post–Katrina rebuilding. As of August 2011, the New Orleans metro* had roughly the same number of jobs as three years earlier (528,400 jobs). During the same three year period, the U.S. lost 4.0 percent of jobs.
*The New Orleans metro area is defined as the seven–parish Metropolitan Statistical Area encompassing New Orleans, and its suburban parishes, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and St. Tammany.
However, when considering housing issues, it is important to look at a longer time frame because population and housing demand roughly parallels job growth. In 2000, the New Orleans metro was near its historical peak number of jobs and population. The levee failures dealt a massive blow to the metro economy and the region lost 98,300 jobs and 148,746 residents as of 2010. As a result, demand for housing has declined since 2000, and vacancies and abandonment have increased.
And despite the short term stimulus from rebuilding investments, the New Orleans region* is largely reliant on legacy industries in decline.
*The New Orleans ten–parish region is defined as the seven–parish New Orleans Metropolitan Statistical Area plus the three parishes of St. James, Washington, and Tangipahoa.
The three largest economic drivers — tourism, oil and gas, and shipping — have shed tens of thousands of jobs since 1980. Until new emerging industries generate substantially more jobs, the New Orleans metro will have slow population growth and modest housing demand.
New Orleanians may have been buffered from the worst of the Great Recession, but have nonetheless felt its impact. The poverty rate in the city increased from 21 percent in 2007 to 27 percent in 2010, which is about the same as it was in 1999. In the U.S., poverty rates are higher than in 1999, but still much lower than in New Orleans.
Single–family home sales in the city have fallen substantially due to the credit crunch and weak economy. Average monthly home sales through September of 2011 are 35 percent lower than in 2007, but are running about even with 2009 and 2010.
In New Orleans, housing costs for homeowners have increased sharply since 2004. Last year, homeowners with a mortgage paid $1,470 per month for their mortgage, taxes, insurance, and utilities — a 14 percent increase since 2004. Homeowners without a mortgage paid $467 per month for their taxes, insurance, and utilities — a 19 percent increase.
As a result, 35 percent of city homeowners meet the definition of “cost–burdened” because they pay more than 30 percent of their pre–tax household income on housing costs. This is higher than the U.S. average of 31 percent, and higher than in Jefferson and St. Tammany.
Housing costs for New Orleans renters skyrocketed 37 percent in the last six years. In comparison, rents increased 7 percent nationwide during the same time frame.
At $897 per month, rents in New Orleans are now higher than the U.S. average and higher than rents in cities like San Antonio, Memphis, and Milwaukee.
While median rent has increased since 2004, over the same time period median income has not. The median household income for New Orleans renters is only $24,535. New Orleans renters pay 5 percent more than the U.S. average for housing from incomes that are 20 percent lower than the U.S. average.
These low incomes have caused the majority of New Orleans renters — just over 60 percent — to be housing cost burdened. Indeed, 38 percent of renters qualify as severely cost–burdened (paying more than half of their income on housing). A larger share of New Orleans renters are severely cost–burdened compared to even high priced cities like New York, where 29 percent of renters are severely cost–burdened.
Looking back to 1940, this is what the population of the New Orleans metro looked like by five–year age group. Looking at the population by age group, you will see that the baby boomers are like a demographic tsunami.
And here is where we are today.
Already, we have seen small shifts in the age structure of the metro area. In 1980, only 9 percent of the metro population was 65 and older. In 2010, it was 12 percent. By 2020, as much as 16 percent of the population may be 65 and older.
Here are some of the effects of the baby boomers moving through the age ranks and birth rates falling. Over the last four decades, New Orleans is decreasingly made up of households with children and increasingly made of up individuals living alone. Note that the share of individuals 65 and older living alone remained relatively the same from 1980 to 2000, but dropped 2 percentage points after the storm. But if you add together all the people living alone you see that the city now has more people living alone than families with children. That is one of the effects of the baby boomers moving through the age ranks.
The rest of the metro experienced even more dramatic declines in households with children with steady increases in individuals living alone. The suburbs also experienced steady increases in individuals 65 and older living alone. Note that the share of all individuals living alone, now at 25 percent, is approaching the share of families with children in the suburbs.
By 2010, while 31 percent of all metro area households live in New Orleans, households with children are less likely to live in the city (26 percent), while singles younger than 65 are more likely to live in the city (43 percent), and individuals 65 years and older living alone are equally likely to live in the city as in the suburbs (31 percent).
Orleans and most of the metro area parishes have gained many new Hispanic* residents since 2000. In the city, these gains are a reversal of losses during the previous two decades when many Hispanics moved out of Orleans and into suburban parishes, particularly Jefferson. Yet despite gaining 3,225 Hispanic residents since 2000, the city of New Orleans still had fewer Latino residents in 2010 than in 1980. Meanwhile, the rest of the metro gained 30,282 Hispanic residents between 2000 and 2010. Hispanics have long exhibited preferences for living in the suburban parishes surrounding the city of New Orleans, and Katrina solidified those preferences with 80 percent of Hispanics in the metro now living outside of Orleans, up from 75 percent in 2000.
* “Hispanic” is used interchangeably with “Latino” throughout this PowerPoint. A “Hispanic” individual can be of any race. For complete definitions of our race/ethnicity categories, see the Technical Appendices at www.gnocdc.org.
Were it not for the influx of 34,561 Hispanics and Asians* under the age of 65 over the last decade, the age structure of the New Orleans metro would be even older. While the metro population over 65 years of age is 68 percent white, only 55 percent of the population ages 20 to 64 are white, and only 45 percent of children 0 to 19 years old are white. People of color make up 45 percent of the working age population and the majority of the child population, with African Americans representing the largest share. Hispanics account for a rapidly growing share of the population under the age of 65. In 1990, only 4 percent of the metro area population under 65 was Hispanic. In 2010, it was 8 percent. Indeed as of 2010, the median age for metro area whites is 41.9 years; for African Americans, it is 31.9 years; for Hispanics, it is 30.9 years; and for Asians, it is 34.2 years — revealing that the future of the New Orleans area will be decidedly more diverse.
* Throughout this PowerPoint, “white,” “African American,” and “Asian” refer to individuals who are not Hispanic. For complete definitions of our race/ ethnicity categories, see the Technical Appendices at www.gnocdc.org.
In 2010, the metro area has 142,000 residents 65 years and older. But here comes that demographic tsunami…
There is no doubt that, as across the nation, the most important demographic shift over the next few decades in the New Orleans area will be the dramatic increase in the older adult population. By 2030, factoring in age–specific death rates, the metro will have 233,000 residents 65 years and older. Nearly 100,000 more than today.
Simply adding the 145,520 people ages 55 to 64 currently living in the metro to the group 65 and older (after applying age–specific mortality rates), we can anticipate a sizable jump in the metro population 65 and older by 2020. In addition, increasing life expectancy means that a growing number of people are reaching 75, 85, and even 100 years old. The aging of the baby boomers will bring other demographic shifts such as a continued decrease in the number of households with children and greater increases in the number of people living alone. Having a reasonable idea of the scale of these upcoming changes is essential to inform current housing policy and planning decisions.
Americans tend to make decisions about moving from one home to another at key points in their lives. As the graph depicts, the likelihood of moving declines as we age. Individuals 65 and older are more likely to want to age in place. But some do move to be closer to family, for better or cheaper housing, and to accommodate decreasing abilities, with the latter becoming increasingly important for individuals over age 75.
So we examined three possible scenarios for the projected household mix of New Orleans in 2020.
In Scenario 1 we assume no net in–migration.
Given current economic forecasts, it’s reasonable to assume that the number of newcomers who might come to the region could be offset by those who leave the region for work opportunities. Although zero net in–migration may seem pessimistic, simply factoring in expected births and deaths results in a 2.7 percent population growth rate for the metro by 2020, which is not inconsistent with the Louisiana Workforce Commission’s job growth projections of 3.5 percent over 10 years.
Scenario 2: also assumes no net in–migration to the metro, but it assumes that families with only young children currently living in the city, who might otherwise move to the suburbs when their children reach school age, instead stay in the city. Further, it assumes that as householders currently between the ages of 55 and 64 join the cohort of householders 65 plus, the entire cohort (less age specific death rates) remains in the city rather than moving elsewhere.
Scenario 3: assumes a much more optimistic population growth rate of nearly 10 percent. Given the current global economic climate, the likelihood of an economic boom seems unlikely, but the future is hard to predict so we felt we should include an optimistic scenario as well.
Regardless of the scenario, the increase in households headed by adults 65 and older will greatly surpass the increase in any other household type. This is the effect of the aging of the baby boomers.
The kind of housing these older adults need will depend to some extent on their physical abilities and to some extent on their financial resources. Many of these older adults will eventually lose physical or mental abilities, and maintaining their lifestyles in their own homes may become untenable. Based on published research on disability rates among the elderly and the authors’ analysis of ACS 2009 microdata, we estimate that in 2010, 9,100 of the city’s adults 65 and older had a moderate or serious disability and were still living at home. This number will jump to 12,600 by 2020.
By 2030, a larger number of older adults will reach 75 years and older (after applying age–specific death rates), at which point a larger number of elderly will likely have disabilities.
In addition, New Orleans’ elders are much more likely to be impoverished than elders in the surrounding suburbs and in the nation. In 2010, 17 percent of New Orleanians age 65 and older lived below the poverty level, which is $11,344 annually for a single person household. In comparison, only 7 percent of elders in the rest of the metro and 9 percent in the United States lived below the poverty level in 2010. An additional 27 percent of elders in the city lived between 100 percent ($11,344 annually) and 200 percent of poverty ($22,688 annually) — a similar rate as in the rest of the metro and the nation. Indeed, in their recently released strategic plan, the Housing Authority of New Orleans reported significant wait lists for their handicapped–accessible units.
Like in other American cities, many New Orleanians expressed their preference for suburban–style living when the construction of levees, drainage, and Interstate 10 beginning in the 1960s supported new developments in former marshlands. Much of the movement to suburban parishes was racially motivated “white flight” in response to school de–segregation policies. In New Orleans, African Americans also expressed their preferences for suburban style living, but mostly within city boundaries in part because redlining practices restricted their access to suburban parishes. These moves from the historic section of the city to suburban developments led to a dramatic shift in the concentration of households toward suburban and exurban parishes.
By 2010, 69 percent of all households in the metro lived in the suburban parishes and only 31 percent lived in the city.
Here we see that 29% of the metro population lives in the city, but young adults ages 18–34 are much more likely to live in the city than the suburbs, whereas other age groups are less likely to live in the city. Adults 65 and older are more likely to live in the suburbs, as are adults 55 to 64 years of age. As this next cohort reaches retirement age in the coming years, they too will likely remain in the suburbs because the literature tells us that older adults by and large prefer to “age in place.” This represents both a challenge and an opportunity for New Orleans. New Orleans can strive to attract those empty nesters who may prefer to give up their suburban homes for more walkable downtown neighborhoods, but because most older adults prefer to remain in their homes, the city will not likely see an enormous influx of retirees. However, decisionmakers may be able to reduce a large *outflow* of households by creating policies that support New Orleanians remaining in their homes as they age and by providing new senior housing opportunities.
According to 2009 American Community Survey data, individuals 65 and older living alone in New Orleans are more likely to be homeowners living in single family homes built before 1950. As these seniors age, they may reach a decision point about whether they can continue to stay in their historic homes. Indeed, it seems that many seniors reached this decision point over the last decade resulting in the loss of hundreds of elder households from nearly every historic neighborhood — even those that didn’t flood along the “sliver by the river.” As more and more New Orleanians reach older age, enabling them to remain in their homes will be a critical component to reducing blight and abandonment in the city.
This report describes the upcoming demographic changes in our nation and our community, and the implications for housing demand and community planning. But we also recognize that those implications are not fixed in stone. Public policy and private efforts can affect the level and mix of household growth over the next decade. The policies and programs described below are not meant as a comprehensive strategy, but as illustrations of programs to accomplish the goals of growing the city. Because the increase in older adult households is anticipated to greatly surpass growth of any other household type across the metro and in the city, the below policy and program ideas focus largely (although not exclusively) on that age group.
Omitted from the list of policies and programs below are suggestions for reducing crime. Violent crime rates in New Orleans are nearly twice the national average, and certainly crime is a determining factor for many individuals when considering whether to move to or remain in a city. However, reducing crime and strengthening our criminal justice system are very complex topics that require more attention than can be yielded to them in this report. Thus, we focus on a variety of other intervention areas.
While the focus has been on housing for older adults, the city should continue to implement strategies to attract new residents. Our 2010 housing report (Optimizing Blight Strategies) described ways to reduce blight, and bringing in new households to rehab and occupy abandoned units will be essential to ensuring that weak market neighborhoods improve rather than decline.
To support this goal of increasing population, other cities have built a central portal for marketing neighborhoods and facilitating moves into the city. The nonprofit organization Live Baltimore has provided resources for almost 15 years to those interested in moving to their city, including neighborhood profiles and information about home buying incentives. In the New Orleans area, promotional materials might be more effective if they are also published in Spanish in recognition of the growing Hispanic population in our suburban parishes. The City of Milwaukee and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation engage residents to design their own programs for promoting their neighborhoods, improving neighborhood appearance, and encouraging homeowners to buy in the neighborhood. Neighborhood Housing Services in Milwaukee, began working more closely with the real estate community, and learned that profit margins were lower in weaker neighborhoods. Thus, they began offering small finder fees to agents as an incentive to market their properties.
In addition to encouraging people to move into neighborhoods as they exist now, government and nonprofits are reshaping many neighborhoods with decisions about redevelopment and new construction. Developing at least some of the housing suitable for the household types we know will increase in the future makes sense. For example, some of the new homeownership units being built with public subsidies could be smaller single family homes or condominiums in consideration of the growing number of single–person households. This tactic would make most sense in denser areas or neighborhoods with good access to public transportation.
Studies show that most older adults by and large want to remain in their homes as long as possible. The community should support this choice, not only because of the household’s wishes, but because it will benefit the neighborhood as a whole. Having older adult households stay in their home longer will reduce the number of homes coming onto the market in the near–term and avoid the risk of another vacant property, particularly in weak market neighborhoods. In order to stay in their homes, some older adults will consider a home’s accessibility, availability of services, and affordability when deciding whether to remain in the city.
As one example of improving accessibility and safety of existing homes, the nonprofit Rebuilding Together provides free repairs for low–income older homeowners. Other local governments have small grant programs for long–time older homeowners to retro–fit their homes (grab–bars, widen doorways, etc.). Off–street parking may also ease access for some elderly homeowners, and programs like the Lot Next Door could transfer ownership of vacant lots for this purpose, serving the dual goals of assisting elderly adults staying in their homes and putting an empty property to productive use.
In regard to rental housing, a recent survey of apartment complexes in New Orleans suggests that much of the housing stock is not compliant with Fair Housing accessibility requirements aimed at persons with physical disabilities. Greater enforcement of these federal regulations should be a priority and would assist many seniors to remain in these units. For both rental and homeowner units, government and nonprofit agencies responsible for rehabbing units could promote the use of universal design, a concept of designing residential homes “to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for special adaptation.” Examples of universal design for homes include a step–free entrance, multiple countertop heights, wide doorways, and a curbless shower. Other cities offer examples of voluntary and mandatory programs to increase these practices.
Other programs focus on the in–home and community services that can enable elders to remain in private housing with intermittent assistance. In New Orleans, the Pontchartrain Park neighborhood is developing programming and services that will allow older residents to remain in their homes while maintaining a high quality of life. This initiative has similar goals to those of the membership–based Capitol Hill Village in Washington D.C., which provides occasional support to elderly in their homes. The Capitol Hill Village vets contractors, connects seniors with volunteers to drive them to appointments or run errands, and organizes social activities.
Moreover, city and regional transportation agencies could contribute to the region’s readiness for the aging population by specifically considering the needs and locations of the older adults both in their short–term decision–making about routes and in their long–term plans. The workforce development agencies also have a role to play in evaluating the size and strength of the in–home service sector.
Beyond the housing conditions or services, older homeowners, many of whom have fixed incomes, face affordability challenges. The city’s program to freeze the taxable assessed value for those homeowners over age 65 and earning less than $66,000 per year is one program to reduce the cost of housing for older adults. Many elderly homeowners may be unaware of this benefit and outreach to older homeowners could be a simple way to help them stay in their homes. The city could also think about how programs for all ages could be tapped to help the city’s aging population. The NOLA Wise program, which helps homeowners improve the energy efficiency of their homes, is available to households of all ages. This does not preclude a targeted outreach to older households through mailings to those receiving the elderly assessment freeze and information at senior community centers to publicize the availability and benefits of this program. Costs for services can also be overwhelming to low and moderate income seniors. At the state level, increasing the availability of Medicaid coverage for home based services would alleviate some of the financial pressures and enable more elders to stay at home and out of costly nursing care.
Some households by necessity or choice move from their private homes to housing tailored to elderly with a range of supportive service needs (“senior housing”). To begin to paint a picture of this segment of the housing market, we conducted a scan of available privately–owned residential facilities in the New Orleans metropolitan area using databases from InfoUSA and Nursing Home Compare. [See the Technical Appendices at www.gnocdc.org for more info about our methodology.]
Four types of “senior housing” were scanned:
- 1. Independent Living facilities are age–restricted communities with private units with amenities such as community dining and group activities, but no health related services.
- 2. Assisted Living residences provide personalized assistance, supportive services, and an intermediate level of health care to those who need help with daily tasks, but not full–time nursing services.
- Independent/ Assisted Living: 1,000 units in the New Orleans metro.
- 3. Nursing Homes provide intensive, long–term medical care for residents with serious health problems. generally larger and more expensive.
- Nursing homes: Nearly 5,000 beds in the New Orleans metro.
- 4. Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) combine multiple levels of housing–based care so that residents can move easily between different types of residences as needs for varying levels of health care change.
- CCRCs: 2,000 units in the New Orleans metro — a quarter of all senior housing.
Our initial survey cataloged nearly 8,000 units or beds operating for the sole purpose of housing older adults in the metropolitan area, with about 43 percent of these located in the city.
There is no published standard for the appropriate mix of types of senior housing. Our impression was that the share of nursing homes is high and that aging New Orleanians could benefit from a larger supply of independent and assisted living to provide more options in between the burden of maintaining their own homes and group living with intensive medical services in nursing homes.
Based on our initial scan of the housing supply targeted for seniors and assuming the same rate of use among older adults that exists today, the city will need roughly 1,400 additional senior units or beds by 2020.
Our first review of the supply based on two sources provides a start, but needs to be verified with other sources of information to create a full catalog of available senior housing. The city can then regularly monitor both the older adult population and quantity and type of senior housing options. While nursing homes dominate the specialized housing right now, many forces are likely to lead to a shift away from institutionalization, including elders’ preference to age in place, the cost of nursing care, and a more flexible array of state and federal housing policies.
The cost of senior housing is as much a concern as the supply. In the New Orleans area, the median monthly rent for a private residence in an assisted living development is $3,620, compared to $3,261 nationally. The median monthly rate for a semi–private unit in a nursing home is $4,471. While we don’t have rates for continuing care facilities, down payments can often be over $100,000 before monthly rents. This represents an impossible cost burden for many in need of long term housing.
Certainly, a wider array of options with varying levels of support services could help to retain long–time residents in the city. To pave the way, the city needs to understand the barriers and opportunities to building more independent and assisted living, including factors such as regulations, financing, land assembly, and the capacity of developers and management companies. When developing new senior housing facilities or complexes, the city should first explore the possibility of re–purposing larger empty public buildings such as closed schools for senior housing before new construction. If this is feasible, it would solve two problems at once — return vacant property to productive use and increase the supply of supportive housing for the elderly. Our current inventory indicates that New Orleans actually has a better range of senior housing options than the suburbs at this time. If the city continues to develop senior housing options, it could be a draw for aging households throughout the region.
Elder households at the lowest income levels are particularly vulnerable. For those families in subsidized housing, the Housing Authority of New Orleans has already recognized the importance of accessibility. The agency’s strategic plan suggests the creation of an incentive program for landlords accepting housing vouchers to retrofit existing units to be accessible and requires that 10 percent of the units in new developments are accessible. These are steps in the right direction, but the agency will need to monitor the housing supply and resident needs to see if these measures are sufficient to address the upcoming demand. The recently approved redevelopment of the Iberville public housing site offers an excellent opportunity for the Housing Authority to produce several hundred units with universal design features that will accommodate individuals of all ages. In addition, the newly–formed Louisiana Housing Corporation (LHC) can encourage a larger supply of subsidized housing suitable for seniors by, for example, requiring set–asides for housing with services. The LHC can reduce blight at the same time by prioritizing rehabilitation of small rental properties with accessibility features and reuse of old buildings such as churches and schools for senior housing.
A strong love of place is perhaps one of the most distinguishing features of New Orleanians. This love of place made us resilient enough to rebuild our city after the costliest disaster in U.S. history. If we start planning today, together we can ensure that New Orleans continues to be a place we can all enjoy well into our twilight years.