Randle Loeb, 70, cycled home from one of his two jobs seven days a week. He sat in the subsidized hotel room in downtown Denver where he has lived since. January. He wondered what his late father would think.
âHe stopped working at the age of 67. He wouldn’t have dreamed that his son would have to work the rest of his life until he was too weak to do it, âLoeb said. âMost people believe that their children will be able to take care of themselves, and that is obviously no longer true. We are basically trying to survive. “
Loeb is the victim of a housing crisis in Colorado that has been made worse by the pandemic, and data from the US Census Bureau’s weekly household survey shows that housing instability is particularly pronounced among seniors. In midsummer, Colorado ranked first for housing instability in the United States, with more than a third of survey respondents 65 and over expressing “low confidence” or ” no confidence ‘that they could make a rent.
For more than a year, census surveys have shown that about a fifth of all tenants in Colorado, regardless of their age, don’t know if they can make their next rent payment. Eviction defense lawyers say it’s common for people here to have racked up thousands in rental debt, unable to stay put in the pandemic due to housing assistance programs and a moratorium on the evictions overturned a month ago by the United States Supreme Court.
Census data fluctuate and are imperfect – surveys have a 15% margin of error. But the affordability problem among seniors is likely to worsen as their population grows and Colorado becomes less affordable. A one-bedroom apartment in Denver now costs an average of around $ 1,650, and averages are over $ 1,200 at the top and bottom of the Front Range.
“There have always been people who cannot afford the cost of living, but there are more of them now, due to our growing population in the 65 and over age group,” said the demographer. of State Elizabeth Garner.
Colorado’s senior population has more than doubled in 20 years and is now close to one million. Garner’s office projects 1.3 million by 2035. And that’s not a product of migration.
âOur rapidly growing senior population is all tied to birthdays, to people aged 65 and over – not because they’re moving here,â she said. âWe’ve never seen rapid growth in this (age group) before, not like in Arizona or Florida. So it’s a transition.
While older Coloradians are more likely to be homeowners, they are also more likely to live on a fixed income. Loeb said working class people like him never thought it would cost so much to live.
But worst of all, Loeb said, is the feeling of being unwelcome.
âIt scares you,â he said. âYou are tired and exhausted because you don’t know what to do. You lose all hope of having the opportunity to die with dignity, and you feel like a flame that is going to go out, a wisp that disappears in the breeze.
“This is how you feel about your life – forgotten, invisible.”
“It’s so difficult to find a place”
Service agencies are trying to meet the growing need for affordable housing in this age group, but say they face serious shortages.
âWe are not producing enough for demand,â said Doug Snyder, vice president of regional real estate for Volunteers of America. âGuys like me, affordable housing developersâ¦ the collective output that we produce doesn’t keep pace, and then you overlap demographic trends, age and income. “
Jayla Sanchez-Warren, who heads the Regional Agency on Aging at the Denver Regional Council of Governments, said it’s not a problem money alone can solve. She sits on a state council appointed by the governor to plan for Colorado’s senior population and is pessimistic about the extent of the impact the state will make with a generational influx of federal COVID-19 aid.
âWhen you go to a meeting about it at the stateâ¦ they don’t talk about the elderly,â she said. âAnd it’s so hard to find a place. We have money coming out of our ears, but no real places to put people. “
Even housing specifically intended for the elderly is scarce or sometimes too expensive. Unassisted housing developments can be cheaper than the rental market, but also have waiting lists of up to two years. Assisted living in Colorado costs about $ 4,500 per month on average, according to long-term care insurer Genworth.
That sort of thing will never be an option for Geery Early, who, at 71, has around $ 900 a month from all of his income sources, including Social Security. He has lived in the same North Federal Boulevard mobile home park since 1980, but said the park owner advised he and the half-dozen other residents were due to leave by November.
âI thought I would be able, when I retired, to buy groceries and drugs and get by, just like everyone else,â he said.
Like Loeb, he worked his entire adult life. He’s now in talks with people he knows in Missouri, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, and deciding where he’ll go when he leaves the park.
If he stayed in Colorado, he said, he would likely become homeless.
âHousing is the number one problem because everyone needs a place to live,â he said. “And I have absolutely no choice at the moment.”
But moving is also costly, and Loeb is worried about what will happen when the interim pandemic solutions expire. He knows a lot of older people living in the same hotel who won’t have anywhere to go.
“Do you think we have a lot of people on the streets now?” ” he said. “Wait.”