Not so obvious: who is driving the market for 55+ housing?

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Sunday Globe’s real estate section didn’t get it right about age-restricted housing:

“Right now, there’s no question 55-plus housing is driven by demographics.”

No question — baby-boomers are driving demand for modest housing in traditionally scaled neighborhoods. The question is — Are baby-boomers really demanding houses that they can only re-sell to people 55 years and older, or is something else driving the market for such deed-restricted houses? 

According to Pioneer’s survey of local zoning regulations, just over half of the communities in eastern MA have zoning for age-restricted housing (96 of 187 municipalities). Often, the only way to build neighborhoods of traditional density is through the 55+ zoning.

While some seniors are looking for neighborhoods where there are no children, it seems that the real driver of 55+ residential projects is restrictive zoning.

Lynnfield’s Master Plan states: “Another means of increasing the tax base in Lynnfield is development of age-restricted housing. These developments have a positive fiscal impact because they do not produce any school-age children.” It is perhaps this assumption that is driving 55+ building, not demographics.

The region could use more traditional neighborhoods – for seniors and families alike.