General Info on Low-Cost Senior Residences

Finding affordable senior residences means striking the right balance between price and quality. A variety of options for low-cost senior residences range from government subsidized living facilities to moving overseas.

Government Subsidized Options

Among the most flexible options for low-cost or lower-cost senior residences are government subsidized senior housing communities. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development helps seniors over age 62 through its Section 202 Program.

If a senior residence is in the HUD Section 202 Program, seniors living there pay based on income minus medical expenses. Typically, the senior pays 30 percent of income minus medical, and that amount covers rent and utilities.

When considering a Section 202 residence, important questions to ask include income limits for residents and services included or available.

A Life Estate Residence

For some seniors, the sale of a residence provides a large lump sum of money. If cash flow creates a problem because the senior quit working and has limited retirement income, some senior residences provide living facilities and care for life in exchange for the lump sum. The residence is the property of the senior for his or her life, reverting to the community upon the resident’s death.

An Overseas Option

Informal senior residence communities exist overseas and offer low-costs options. In many warm-weather locales - Belize, Mexico, Spain - American seniors buy or lease property close to each other and form their own retirement communities. For example in Belize - an English-speaking country - there are no taxes unless your income exceeds $75,000 and property taxes are extremely low. The cost of living far undercuts that of the United States as well.

Active, healthy, adventuresome seniors make the best candidates for this option. And anyone considering it must thoroughly understand local real estate regulations. Available health care poses a challenge as well. Those not daunted by such drawbacks find a cheaper alternative to many U.S. senior living options.

Closer to Home

Many seniors prefer staying closer to their families in their advancing years. But not everyone wants to move in with children. Another senior residence option that started in Australia is Elder Cottage Housing Opportunities, also called an ECHO. The ECHO is a 700-square-foot manufactured housing unit, much like a studio apartment. It can be set in place next to or near another home and costs about $25,000.

Considerations include the need for water, sewer and power hookups. Plus anyone considering this needs to ensure local zoning regulations allow it.

Market Based Housing

Finally, with the growing number of seniors, real estate developers are building senior residences in all price ranges. Government subsidized senior residences, such as mentioned in the HUD Section 202 Program above, aren’t for everyone. Some seniors would rather pay a little more for a nicer facility, but still not pay top dollar.

Many apartment-style senior residences look much like a typical apartment complexes, but offer food service and medical care options. As you would expect with a market-driven option, these lower-cost senior residences don’t have the amenities of high-end alternatives.  But seniors who enjoy casual living can find a bargain here.


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