About Us



A Place to Call Home

“Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than any magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.” — Charles Dickens,

The Benjamin Rose Institute was one of the first charitable organizations in the United States established for the benefit of older adults. Its story begins with someone at risk of losing their home. “During the Panic of 1893. . .Mr. Rose had occasion to aid an aged couple [who] had been friends of his many years before. . . They were left in their old age without any means of support.” Benjamin and Julia Rose created a trust whereby corporate trustees or a board of managers were empowered to utilize funds to assist older people either at their own home or other places of abode or homes to be established for them.

More than a century later, housing continues to be a challenge for older adults. In its 2021 survey of home and community preferences, AARP found that more than three-quarters of adults ages 50 and older indicated a desire to age-in-place.  But many of them worry about their ability to do so. At Benjamin Rose, we believe that stable, sustainable housing is key to achieving comfort and dignity in retirement, and that strategies to promote financial security and individual dignity must address the challenges of affordable, available and accessible housing for vulnerable populations.


 A growing number of older adults struggle to find rental housing they can afford. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, among extremely low-income households, those with 30 percent or less of the area median income, 72 percent are severely housing cost-burdened, meaning they are spending 50 percent or more of their income on rent.  Older adults make up 30 percent of extremely low-income households. The NLIHC also reported a dramatic spike in the annual change in median rental prices. Average monthly rents rose by $179 in 2022, compared to average increases of $31 in the preceding years. Rising rents were accompanied by growth in utility expenses, which rose by more than 14 percent. 

For older homeowners, one in four is housing cost-burdened, a rate less than half that for renters in most communities. Two-thirds or more of older households own their homes. But this population faces increasing maintenance and utility costs. Rising property values, and the associated increases in property taxes, places some retirees at risk. A growing number of the clients served by our housing and financial counseling programs at Benjamin Rose carry mortgage debt or other loan obligations in retirement.  An article in the September 2023 issue of Health Affairs projected, “By 2029, more than half of middle-income seniors (ages 75 or older) will have insufficient resources to cover housing and care needs.”


Americans in or nearing retirement also struggle to find available housing. A blog post on Apartments.com offers suggestions on how to go about getting on a waiting list for available senior housing. According to the site, the occupancy for market-rate apartments for older adults is “about 83 percent.” For subsidized housing programs, including HUD 202, Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) and Housing Choice vouchers, waiting lists may extend for years.

The prospects for homeowners are challenging, too. For older adults seeking to downsize, or purchase a home in retirement, the market has changed dramatically. The average sales price of a “starter home” has increased by 64 percent since 2016, a much steeper increase than that of larger houses. Downsizers compete with first time homebuyers, and real estate investors, for listed properties. Increasing buyer demand was accompanied by a decline in available housing stock. Realtor.com  reported that active listings of starter home dropped by 60 percent between 2016 and 2021.


In addition to being able to find it, and afford it, older adults also need housing they can actually live in. Most of the housing in the United States includes challenges to entering or navigating the home. Stairs leading to outside entryways, sleeping rooms and bathrooms on upper floors, narrow hallways and interior doorways, all limit options for aging in place for many older adults. The Center for American Progress (CAP) estimates that less than 5 percent of  housing is accessible for persons with moderate mobility limitations, and less than 1 percent is accessible for wheelchair users. Federal guidelines for affordable housing units must meet Current Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS). But Section 504 only requires 5 percent of units to be accessible.

Accessibility considerations also includes the environment around the home. Walkability, access to transit, public services, shopping and other community amenities also impact the accessibility of housing and the ability of older adults to successfully age in place.

Addressing the challenges

Since 1908, Benjamin Rose has supported the housing needs of older adults.  Today those services include: 

  • Margaret Wagner Senior Apartments offers affordable rental housing to low-income older adults. This program is supported in part by HUD 202 funding and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC).
  • Service coordination for residents of low-income senior housing.
  • Rental and utility assistance programs for persons ages 55 and older.
  • HUD-certified education and counseling for first-time homebuyers.
  • Counseling and support services to address foreclosure prevention, property tax assessments, and guidance for older adults in navigating housing decisions as they age.
  • Financial wellness programs that promote financial literacy, economic stability and access to benefits.
  • Matched saving and zero-interest loan programs to help build individual wealth and avoid predatory lending practices.

In addition to these services, we also advocate for effective policies and programs to promote affordable, available and accessible housing. Last year, the Ohio Senate established a Select Committee on Housing to examine the housing needs across the state,  including older adults and other vulnerable populations.  In testimony submitted to that committee, Benjamin Rose made the following recommendations on public policy can that help address the housing needs of older adults.

  • Expand public affordable housing programs for low-income households. Efforts to build and maintain and expand housing options must include both the public and the private sector. The National Low Income Housing Coalition advocates for policies and funding to ensure rental housing is available and affordable:  making rental assistance universally available, building and preserving affordable and public housing, and providing robust renter protections.
  • Promote private investment in affordable owner-occupied and rental housing. Subsidized housing only addresses part of the problem. Ninety percent of older adults do not qualify for public assistance with housing. Good public policy also promotes investment in affordable market rate rental and owner-occupied properties.
  • Update zoning and community planning guidelines that encourage accessible housing units and expand options for multi-generational and multi-family housing.
  • Invest in home repair and home modification programs. Home repair and home accessibility modification programs are critical to addressing the housing needs of older adults. Household maintenance programs help preserve existing housing stock. Minor home modifications address mobility challenges in kitchens, bathrooms, and laundries. These programs preserve the value of homes and enhance safety and livability. Landlords should also be encouraged to maintain properties and enhance accessibility of dwelling units. Home repair and home modification programs are cost-effective ways to help people, owners, and renters alike, to age in place.

Housing is more than just shelter.  It is also a connection to place and community. It provides stability and comfort and dignity.   Working together we can ensure that everyone, at any age, has a place to call home.