Seniors Struggle To Find Affordable Housing

Week 3: How do retirees fit into the Payson affordable housing equation?

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As Payson's working class struggles to find affordable housing, the finger of blame is often pointed at well-heeled retirees who drive housing costs by purchasing million dollar homes in the area.

While the mental image makes for a good villain, it may be a myth.

The reality is that many seniors and older boomers agonize as much as any other age group when it comes to finding and maintaining affordable housing that meets their needs.

Coldwell Banker Real Estate agent Bob Flibotte tells of senior clients who faced foreclosure because they couldn't keep up with their house payments or pay their property taxes.

"It's an incredible problem," he said. "Their incomes are fixed, probably Social Security and pensions, but costs keep rising.

"The house needs a new roof, or they need health care and they can't afford it."

Losing a family home is a huge embarrassment for many seniors.

"One of the first questions I ask when listing a home is ‘Why are you selling?''' Flibotte said. "They won't say, ‘We're behind in our house payments.'

"They give other reasons."

Rory Huff, a local ERA agent, has witnessed several elderly persons who were forced by circumstance to put their homes on the market.

"There is a lot of sad sales out there," he said. "They have to sell or downsize because they can't pay their taxes or some other expense."

Seniors Jack and Linda, who asked that their last names not be used, thought they were set for life when they retired in their late 50s.

"But there were so many unexpected costs that we couldn't handle, especially health insurance because we didn't qualify for Medicare," Linda said. "We ended up selling our home and moving into a small rental."

Priced out of homes, into rentals

Bob and Nadine Lawson owned a home in Payson for years and never thought about selling it.

Then both suffered illnesses and were hospitalized for lengthy periods.

When released, they decided to move to the Valley to be closer to their doctors and medical facilities.

They sold their home and used the money to help pay off staggering medical bills.

After only a few months in the Valley, the pair decided to return to Payson.

"The heat, the shootings, and my wife couldn't breathe down there," Bob Lawson said. "We had to come back."

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After months of searching, Bob and Nadine Lawson finally found a manufactured home rental they could afford. "There really is no affordable housing for seniors in Payson," Nadine said.

For several months after returning to Payson they lived with their daughter, sharing rent, while searching for a new home.

Unable to find a house they could afford, the two decided to rent a place of their own.

"All we could afford was $1,000 a month and we couldn't find what we were looking for," Nadine said.

After months of searching, the husband and wife finally found a manufactured home rental they could afford.

The two, who both volunteer and work at the Payson Senior Center, say they hear stories similar to their own almost daily.

"There really is no affordable housing for seniors in Payson," Nadine said.

According to the Alliance of Older Americans, more than 1.5 million seniors reside in homes that are too expensive to comfortably fit in their budget, are not in good condition or do not meet their individual needs.

Senior renters are hit the hardest, with a growing number of them paying 50 percent of their income to housing needs alone.

Options for seniors

For seniors facing the loss of their homes, an option is to live in a HUD-assisted senior housing project.

Rick Croy, Payson Town Council candidate and the president of Payson Regional Housing Development, said the Canal Senior Apartments offer affordable housing for residents 55 years and older.

"We have (seniors) who sold their homes because they couldn't afford to maintain them and moved in (to the senior apartments)," he said. "(The seniors) are more comfortable and whatever equity they had they can save it or use it to go visit the grandkids."

The Maurnez Apartments offers 30 percent subsidized allotment through Rural Development/USDA funding, but they have a waiting list of six to 12 months.

Other rentals for seniors include Pineview Manor, Payson Senior Apartments and Mountain View Apartments.

Reverse mortgages

To meet the growing costs of homeownership, some seniors have turned to HUD reverse mortgages.

To be eligible for the mortgage, HUD's Federal Housing Administration (FHA) requires that the borrower is a homeowner, 62 years of age or older, own the home outright or have a low mortgage balance that can be paid off at the closing with proceeds from the reverse loan, and must live in the home.

Of course, the cash received from the mortgage must eventually be repaid or the home equity will not be passed on to the estate of heirs.

All around Payson, seniors are feeling the crunch. Finding affordable housing is a challenge, but they understand the lack of it threatens their safety and welfare.

Coming up

Week 4: Why does it matter if there is no affordable housing?

Week 5: Solutions

Week 6: Community round table, 5:30 p.m. May 30 at Payson Public Library. RSVP to (928) 474-5251, ext. 115.

See related stories:

Week 1: Work force being priced out of Payson (April 28)

Week 2: Affordable housing: How did it get this bad? (May 5)

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