Walsh task force focus is senior housing

Twenty-three percent of occupied housing units in Boston have a person who is 60 years or older, according to a new report from the city’s Elderly Affairs Commission and UMass Boston’s Gerontology institute.

That’s a number likely to grow, as the Baby Boom generation nears old age and how to house them will be of concern to Mayor Marty Walsh and his successors.

“Nearly half of Boston seniors (48 percent) live in a rented home, while 28 percent own a mortgaged home and 24 percent own a home free and clear,” the report notes. “Although homeownership constitutes an important source of wealth for many seniors, expenses associated with owning and maintaining a home can be prohibitive, especially when the home is mortgaged.”

Walsh said last week that his administration is putting together a task force to look at “housing as a whole.” Referring to the spate of new buildings that focus on attracting luxury residents, Walsh said, “In Boston, we’ve done a pretty good job of building high-end housing.”

When it comes to low-income housing, federal and state grants have to come into play, he said. “Senior housing comes down to funding,” the mayor said. “Veterans housing comes down to funding.”

Dorchester has the city’s largest number of seniors at 16,000; the “Aging in Boston” report says nearly one out of five Boston seniors lives in the neighborhood Walsh represented as a state representative for 16 years.

The Boston Housing Authority oversees Peabody-Englewood and Lower Mills senior housing buildings, both located on Dorchester Avenue. The Keystone facility on the Neponset River and the Savin Hill apartment complexes for seniors were built by Corcoran Jennison. At the time, there was a market for that type of housing, Walsh said. “The money’s not there today, so we have to come up with ways of funding that.”

Building housing without some type of subsidy is difficult, the mayor said. “So it’s a matter of can we build it without the subsidy. That’s what we’re going to try to struggle with, to come up with answers for.”