Understanding, Finding, and Choosing Low-Income Housing for Seniors in the Bay Area

Low-income housing option in the bay area so seniors can age in place. The average house price in San Francisco is a whopping $1.3 million. Great for those selling, but not so great for the area’s aging population who are trying to live affordably—a number that is growing. In California alone, the number of older adults has been rising steadily for years now—they currently account for approximately 11.4% of the state’s total population. And as California’s aging population continues to increase, more older adults find themselves seeking affordable housing; having enough money to live comfortably during their retirement is a concern for nearly three-quarters of older adults in the middle-income bracket.   

With all that, the Bay Area is still one of the best places in the world to live, especially as an older adult—there’s plenty of accessibility and service, and no shortage of things to do and see. Perhaps your loved one still wants to live independently in this region, but they’ve sold their large home to take advantage of the prices. Or maybe they’ve been priced out of their previous home and need to find less-expensive housing. It could also be that they’re simply keen to downsize for less upkeep and no stairs, or are moving out of assisted living and searching for a new home to age in place. Whatever their situation may be, looking into low-income housing could be worthwhile.

Exploring Low-Income Housing in the Bay Area

As more older adults in San Francisco opt to age in place, finding affordable or low-income housing becomes essential. And both San Francisco and the Bay Area in general are working to make more low-income senior housing available, from HUD vouchers to cheaper areas. There are several ways in which you can help your aging loved one navigate their options and find low-income housing that meets their needs—and allows them to feel safe and secure.

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is one of the best options for Bay Area low-income older adults to explore. They provide a voucher program for public housing that helps not only seniors, but also people with disabilities and low-income families find housing within their means.

Finding Out Whether Your Loved One Qualifies for HUD

The only catch is that your loved one must qualify for this program. To begin the process, simply head to your nearest Housing Agency to start filling out the paperwork. You’ll need to provide proof of your loved one’s US citizenship, their age (over 62 years old), and their gross income—which must be under a certain amount. Basically, HUD’s aim to have low-income older adults’ rent account for no more than 30% of their total income. If everything checks out, your loved one will also need references that demonstrate good character as a tenant. After signing a lease with the Housing Agency for their new HUD living space, your loved one should technically be able to stay in their low-income rental for as long as they wish. There are many HUD buildings and complexes throughout the city to meet the growing demand. Best of all, many of these low-income apartment buildings are located in excellent areas with easy access to transportation and amenities your loved one might need.

Looking at Alternatives and Affordable Areas in the Region

In addition to HUD, there are a variety of other moderately priced housing opportunities for older adults in the Bay Area. Whether your aging loved one wants to rent or buy, there are options including affordable senior living communities, inclusionary housing, and low-income housing. Even if your loved one wants to stay in their current home, there are state programs and financial assistance they can apply for. San Francisco also has many buildings run by nonprofits and private organizations that feature affordable housing that older adults can apply for. If your aging loved one is interested in learning more about these, reach out for extra guidance at your local Housing Counseling Agency. This is also a good place to keep tabs on any changes that have occurred in local housing policies and programs, which can change frequently.

And if housing in San Francisco proves to be outside your loved one’s budget, there are many other areas nearby that offer more bang for your buck. While San Francisco and Oakland are the most expensive cities here, other more affordable areas are Sonoma, Napa, Alameda, Santa Clara, and Marin. San Leandro, Richmond, and El Cerrito are also great for older adults who want to live near San Francisco without paying the price. These three cities are connected easily via public transit to San Francisco, which might be convenient for those who have community meetings, groups, or doctor appointments there.

If they can’t find anything suitable alone, many older adults these days are choosing to live with their children’s families. This offers plenty of intergenerational benefits and can be rewarding for all involved. Others choose to share a living space with another older adult. This can help prevent isolation, depression, and also boost companionship and health by having someone to eat meals and share their days with. At the end of the day, the goal is to make sure your aging loved one feels safe and happy with their quality of life. Whether that’s in public housing, a homeshare, or a more affordable area, finding a way to live within their means in the Bay Area is well worth the effort.

To better support your aging loved one, Institute on Aging provides a wide range of services and resources to help you and your family. Get in touch with us today to learn more about the best at-home senior care.


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Institute on Aging

Committed to offering thoughtful discussions and resources to older adults, their families, and their caregivers.

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