Marta (not her real name) called Senior Concerns as a last resort.
The mobile home she and her husband had been renting for the past 30 years was being sold. The owner had died, and the owner’s adult children wanted to sell.
The rent the couple had been paying had been below market rate for many years, allowing them to use their only income, Social Security checks, to pay the rent and buy groceries and prescriptions, with almost nothing left over for savings each month.
After receiving notice that the trailer was being sold, Marta tried to find affordable housing. But nothing in their price range existed, and there was a years-long waiting list for subsidized senior housing in any nearby community.
With no children or relatives to lean on, Marta had no choice but to stay put until she could figure out what to do.
Then the eviction notice came. They had 60 days to vacate the property—and nowhere to go.
Marta was inconsolable at the thought of being kicked out of their home.
“How can it be possible that anyone in their 80s should become homeless?” she asked.
Unfortunately, their situation is not unique.
Most older renters are on fixed incomes, with Social Security benefits as their sole means of support. They are stuck between low fixed incomes and rapidly rising costs for rental housing.
More than $2.6 million older adult renter households pay more than half their monthly income for rent and are just one medical bill or emergency away from being on the streets. The rise in older adult homelessness in California was up 108% from 2017 to 2020.
While high rents are supported by the market, they’re not sustainable for the ever-growing fixed-income senior population. A large percentage of the calls we’ve received at Senior Concerns over the past year have been seniors in search of affordable rental housing because they were at risk of eviction.
In Marta’s case, there was little we could do to help. We suggested she start by contacting the Housing Rights Center to make sure her tenant rights were being followed and that the eviction was done properly.
Next, we suggested she contact the County of Ventura Homeless Services Program, which serves individuals and families experiencing or at risk of homelessness. They consider people at risk of homelessness to have eviction notices and be within 21 days of homelessness.
You can learn more at ventura.org/human-services-agency/ homeless-services or by calling (805) 385-1800.
We told her they may also link her to a program that can provide case management, such as Harbor House, to help her through the transition and understand her options.
Unfortunately for Marta and others like her, most low-income units have a long waiting list, so starting early to get on the list is important.
Lastly, we suggested exploring different options, such as staying with friends or renting a room in someone’s home.
By 2035, seniors will account for nearly one-third of the U.S. rental market. Rental real estate investment corporations are buying up homes and apartment buildings at an ever-increasing rate, charging market prices as they take over. This current crisis is just the tip of the iceberg.
We will need to find solutions to ensure senior renters have affordable housing and are not in danger of becoming homeless.