How zoning can help seniors age in place

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How zoning can help seniors age in place

Americans are getting older. As our diverse population of older adults continues to grow, policymakers and service providers face the difficult task of crafting affordable aging in place strategies that promote independence and well-being. Housing policy is an important part of that: while 90 percent of adults age 65 and up want to age in their own homes, more and more seniors live on fixed incomes, and housing can be a major financial burden.

The Urban Institute, in partnership with the Stanford Center on Longevity and with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, convened a roundtable in September to tackle these pressing issues.

Forty researchers, practitioners and policymakers gathered for two days of ideating and workshopping, brainstorming models ranging from an Aging with Attitude television show to a Match.com business model for home care providers, and everything in-between. A proposal for the federal government to facilitate the design of a model age-friendly zoning code garnered widespread interest from roundtable participants.

Land-use regulations remain largely under the control of local jurisdictions, which have often used zoning codes to restrict the permitting of higher-density development. Limits on multifamily structures, minimum setbacks, and controls on the addition of accessory-dwelling units (like in-law suites) are only several of many examples. The economic repercussions of such moves are devastating: research shows such regulatory constraints in high-productivity cities cost the United States 9.5 percent in GDP. […]

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