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Older Minnesotans struggle to afford housing

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Betty Hanson  describes a scene she painted in her apartment.
Betty Hanson describes a scene she painted in her Detroit Lakes apartment in 2017. The 73-year old Hanson was homeless before finding this small subsidized apartment in Detroit Lakes through a program targeting homeless seniors.
Dan Gunderson | MPR News file

A study from Harvard University indicates senior citizens in Minnesota and across the country are struggling much more than younger people to pay for housing.

Though Minnesota generally does better than the nation overall, the challenges remain high for many older residents. In the Twin Cities, for instance, 43 percent of all renters pay 30 percent or more of their income for housing. But nearly two-thirds of renters 65 or older pay rents that high. Meanwhile a quarter of Minnesota seniors who own their homes have trouble affording them.

“Incomes decline as people get older because people stop working, of course,” said Jennifer Molinsky, a researcher at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. “At the same time, if you are a renter, you may have your rent going up.”

She says the outlook is not good, given the growing number of retiring baby boomers.

“Households are facing these cost burdens and cutting back on other things that are important to wellness, like food and healthcare,” Molinksy said. “The trends going forward suggest we’re going to see even more of that.”

Molinsky says the nation needs much more affordable multi-family housing, but it’s not getting built at anywhere near the rate needed.