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Age Discrimination in Housing – What You Need to Know

The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination due to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. What you don't see on that list but what we see at Open Communities is discrimination against age.

Older woman smiling with her arms crossed. Photo by Steward Masweneng on Unsplash

Fortunately for our clients, we serve Illinois, and the Illinois Human Rights Act extends federal housing protections to include age (defined as 40 and over). Many of the age-related housing discrimination calls we get are disability-related violations – which many people in our aging population face.

More than 30 percent of Americans over age 65 have some kind of disability and over 50 percent of those over age 75. These may range from difficulties seeing and hearing to walking and thinking. Under the ADA, it isn't the cause of the disability that matters but what it means in everyday life. – The ADA National Network

Our recent blog post about housing discrimination and the ADA covered specific instances of discrimination based on disability. Bottom line - housing providers must make reasonable accommodations and allow reasonable modifications for people with disabilities to use their housing.

Examples of Age Discrimination in Housing

Our population is aging, and, as a country, we are not prepared for this – especially regarding housing.

According to the U.S. Census, the number of people aged 65 and older increased by 38% from 2010 to 2020. By 2040, there will be about 80.8 million older persons, more than twice as many as in 2000.

Image of older man with his nose by a cat's nose. Photo by Pietro Schellino on Unsplash_edited

In addition to disability-related fair housing discrimination, this aging population faces age-based violations that can look like:

  • Refusing to rent to someone because they are over 40

  • Exclusionary advertising statements like "dynamic community for young adults" indicate a preference for younger people

  • A leasing agent or broker "steering" older applicants to bottom floor units claiming it would not be safe for them to live on a top floor unit with stairs

  • A housing provider offering different terms or conditions for older adults, such as requiring a larger security deposit, shorter lease terms, proof of independent living for some time, etc.

  • Limiting access to building amenities like fitness centers or pools

  • A housing provider refusing to allow reasonable modifications to a unit

Women and People of Color Face Economic Difficulties as They Age

The majority of U.S. aging adults are women. In 2020, 30.8 million women and 24.8 million men were age 65 and older. That's 124 women for every 100 men. At age 85 and older, this ratio increased to 176 women for every 100 men.

"Nationally, more than 1.7 million extremely low-income (ELI) renter households with an older adult are severely cost-burdened, spending more than half of their income on rent and utilities." – Justice in Aging

Due to a history of discrimination in the workplace and in the ability to purchase homes before aging, women and people of color face the biggest economic hurdles as they age. According to a Justice on Aging report, Black, Latine, and Native American people are three times more likely to be extremely low-income as they age than their white counterparts.

"Caught in the vise between their fixed, lower incomes and steadily rising costs for rental housing, low-income seniors are facing unsustainable rent burdens, paying ever higher percentages of their meager incomes on housing. This untenable situation causes life-threatening stress and leads to people having to choose between paying rent, eating, or buying medications—while also increasing the risk they will be forced onto the streets." - The Administration for Community Living

The fact that women are more likely to live in poverty and live longer than men, combined with racial disparities in homeownership, decreasing fixed incomes for older adults, growing disability needs with aging, and increasing foreclosure and eviction rates, assisting older adults in securing housing and economic stability later in life is essential.

Image of older woman baking. Photo by Centre for Ageing Better on Unsplash

At Open Communities, our current client base is 43% ages 55+, 73% low-income, 79% people of color, and 66% women. More older women seek our services as they face evictions and foreclosures or navigate housing complexities after their partner's death.

As one of our area's only Housing Counseling programs, our free services are greatly needed to educate, advocate, and assist low-income older adults secure housing benefits and reach economic stability.

What You Can Do About Age Discrimination in Housing

As our population ages, age discrimination in housing will continue to be an issue unless we do something about it.

Education is the first step. We offer several programs at Open Communities to educate you about your housing rights. Our HUD Certified Housing Counselors are available to discuss individual housing issues and help find solutions.

Report housing discrimination. If you or someone you know feels like they were denied housing or given different terms because of their age (or due to any of the protected classes), let us know. Our anonymous tip portal allows you to report a violation with or without sharing your personal information.

Support organizations like Open Communities. As one of our area's only Housing Counseling programs, our free services are greatly needed to educate, advocate, and assist low-income older adults secure housing benefits and reach economic stability.


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