How Long Is The Wait For Senior Housing?

With millions of retirees trying to find affordable senior housing, the waitlists are staggering, and being on the waitlist for two to five years is considered normal.

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Are you looking for affordable senior housing? With millions of retirees trying to find affordable senior housing, the waitlists are staggering, and being on the waitlist for two to five years is considered normal.

The senior population in the United States is continuing to grow and so does the demand for affordable senior housing. Today, nearly 15% of the country's population is aged 65 or older. And with this number expected to grow as many baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) continue to age, it's highly likely that the waiting lists for affordable senior housing will continue to get longer. So, when trying to find affordable senior housing keep in mind that you could be put on a waiting list.

The amount of time you'll be on a waiting list for senior housing may depend on several factors such as the anticipated unit availability, your preference on the list, and the date and time you applied for housing. As such, it's a little difficult to approximate individual wait times. But generally speaking, the average waiting time for senior housing is two to five years although some waiting lists have wait times of nearly 7 to 10 years. Based on a first-come, first-served basis, those who have been on the waiting list longer will be generally offered housing first.

Before you begin looking for affordable senior housing, it's imperative to know how senior housing waiting lists work. Fortunately, we're here to get you started on the right note.

Table of Contents

Why are there Long Waiting Lists for Senior Housing?

A majority of baby boomers are now in their 60s and 70s. And as this older population continues to grow, many are unable to afford to pay for their retirement homes and are now resorting to affordable senior housing. Unfortunately, the government funding for affordable senior housing continues to shrink while the need for affordable senior housing continues to rise.

This problem seems to be compounded by the fact that it's no longer uncommon for senior citizens to live into their 80s and even beyond. This means that they'll need housing for longer, yet affordable senior housing projects are stalling. In other words, affordable senior housing has not kept pace with the growth in the senior citizen population.

As a result, there's a crisis in affordable senior housing, and the situation is expected to worsen in the coming years. This means that the waiting lists for senior housing could become even longer.

The Staggering Senior Housing Waiting Lists

Generally, most seniors live on fixed incomes. This increases their need to obtain affordable housing units. To apply for affordable senior housing, you must be at least 62 years old. So assuming that you apply at the earliest possible time of eligibility, you may be on the waiting list until you're 69 years old and this wait is simply staggering.

In most cases, you'll be put on the waiting list because your preferred location is at capacity and there are no free units. Needless to say, you'll probably be unable to move to affordable senior housing if you're put on a waiting list. This means that you'll have to look at other options and make other arrangements.

And because most senior housing is typically allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, you should apply as early as possible. You should, however, keep in mind that those with special circumstances such as terminal illnesses may be given priority. Again, the application processing time to get on the waiting list for senior housing may vary depending on the specific complexities of each applicant and the time of the year. Your application will generally be reviewed within 60 days.

You should keep in mind that being placed on a waiting list isn't binding but it's worth securing a spot on the waiting list even if you'll stay there for a long time. You'll, of course, not be put on a waiting list by just providing your basic information. Instead, you'll have to pay a deposit ranging between $250 and $2,000 to secure a spot on the waiting list. The amount may depend on factors such as the type of the facility, availability of the units, location of the facility, level of luxury, and many more.

What to Expect Once You're on the Waiting List

If your application for a senior housing program is accepted, your name will be placed on a waiting list for that particular senior housing program. You'll then have to be patient and wait until your name comes to the top of the waiting list.

Normally, the housing authority should be able to tell you when your preferred unit will be available or at least give you an estimate. It's, however, not their duty to contact you unless your name reaches the top of the waiting list. It's, therefore, your duty to periodically contact them not just to show that you're still interested in the unit but also to follow up.

Make sure that you do not fail to respond when they contact you as you can be removed from the waiting list if you don't respond when contacted. As such, you should regularly check your mail and respond on time to any request. If you move, you should also send a written notification to the housing programs where you submitted applications to inform them of your new address. It's important to keep a copy of this notification letter as proof that you notified the agency of your change in address.

Keeping Track of Your Place on the Waiting List

As an applicant, you're allowed to check with the agency where you're on the waiting list. You'll be given a number once your application is accepted. Known as a client or control number, you can use it to keep track of your progress on the waiting list.

And because the waiting lists are often so long, you should occasionally contact the housing agency to find out how you're progressing on the waiting list. You should, however, keep in mind that housing agencies have different criteria when it comes to how you can contact them. Some agencies will require you to make a phone call while others may require you to contact them in writing or by mail.

Again, new senior housing rules require agencies to give applicants the option of adding a third party who can be notified in case there's any issue regarding the application. As such, you can include a loved one or a family member to help you keep track of your application.

What to do if Your Situation Changes after You Apply

There are scenarios where your situation can change when you're already on the waiting list. The circumstances may be such that you become eligible for a priority or preference. The best thing to do is to immediately inform the agency of your situation. Of course, they'll review your situation and if you qualify for preference, they might move you closer to the top of the waiting list.

It is under such circumstances that you can also find yourself moving further away from the top of the waiting list, especially when those who applied after you qualify for preferences. Some of the things that might affect your position on the waiting list include being disabled, becoming terminally ill, and losing or qualifying for preference. For this reason, you should make sure that you ask about the preferences and priorities. Keep in mind that they may vary among programs.

Can you be taken off the Waiting List?

There are instances where you might be taken off the contact list. For example, you can be taken off the waiting list if you move or change your address without informing the agency. But if, for example, you were hospitalized at the time the agency contacted you, you can request to be placed back on the waiting list.

Importance of Getting onto the Waiting List

Getting into the waiting list for senior housing is one of the first crucial steps towards securing senior housing and future care. It will enable you to reserve a favorite unit without having to commit to a particular residence. And if you find another opportunity elsewhere, most communities will refund your deposit and you can move to a better environment.

As such, you can apply for senior housing in several places. This will not only increase your chances of getting a unit but will also give you the chance of moving to a better environment. If anything, it's legal to be on more than one waiting list.

Again, some communities will allow you to participate in the community's activities once you get on the waiting list. You are deemed as a potential resident and this is a great chance to explore and experience everyday life in that particular setting so that you can weigh whether or not it's a good fit for you.

Ask a lot of Questions

You should never be afraid of asking a lot of questions regarding senior housing waiting lists. Here are some questions to ask.

  • Does the deposit amount fluctuate and will I be refunded if I want to move out?
  • Will I be notified whenever there are changes in my position on the waiting list?
  • How long will I have to wait?

Asking a lot of questions will allow you to know as much as possible and this will help you make an informed decision. All in all, the waiting lists for senior housing can be very long and you'll have to be very patient. Qualifying for preference will make you move more quickly up the waiting list.

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