Active Adult Over – 55 Communities in New Hampshire
By 2015, over 100 million people will have reached the age of 55 and older in this country.
This has created a high demand for active adult communities in New Hampshire.
When a married couple with two preteen children start hunting for houses in the Southern New Hampshire area, they might assume they can purchase a home anywhere they like as long as they can afford it.
If that family with two children attempted to buy a home in planned community designated for “active adults” though, they would be turned away – legally.
Most people accept the concept of active adult communities, recognizing that older people often want to live in a neighborhood without young children or teenagers disturbing their peace.
People might also want to live in a neighborhood with other families that share their particular language, customs, race or religion. Excluding people from a neighborhood based on any of those factors, however, would violate federal fair-housing laws. So how do builders and buyers in active adult communities get away with age restrictions?
Most active adult communities have been built under the federal Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995, known as HOPA.
HOPA was generated by Congress and signed by President Clinton.
Over the past 20 or 30 years, people have recognized that seniors would like to live with others who are in a similar phase of life. They’re pre-retired or retired, and they want to have friends with similar interests easily available. They have extra leisure time and want to share it with people who also have extra leisure time.”
Before 1995, legislation related to senior housing was far more complicated.
The Fair Housing Act, written in 1968, prohibited discrimination for a variety of reasons including race, color and religion.
The Fair Housing Act was amended in 1974 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, and in 1988, it was amended again to include people with disabilities and familial status. The familial-status revisions came about because there was evidence to support the claim that families with children were having trouble finding housing. At the same time, Congress recognized the desire among senior adults to live among their own group.
Congress at first passed a very complex legislation, which allowed housing developments exclusively for senior citizens but with all kinds of qualifications. There was basically a laundry list of facilities and services that were required to be provided, which made the whole process very litigious. It scared the development community away from building senior housing.
The 1995 HOPA act simplified the process.
The primary purpose of HOPA was to eliminate the requirement that communities must have significant facilities and services in order to receive an exemption from the Fair Housing Act. Lots of communities had felt it was too burdensome to meet this requirement, and this act made it easier to obtain an exemption.
In order to qualify for an exemption to the familial-status provisions of the Fair Housing Act, communities need to meet certain requirements. Either every resident must be 62 or older, or at least 80 percent of the units are occupied by at least one person over age 55.
Some communities also prohibit the admission of families with children and set an age requirement to make sure only adults live in the housing units.
Enforcing the age restriction falls to the communities themselves, which have the incentive of wanting to keep their Fair Housing Act exemption to remain designated as an active adult community.
Communities need to advertise that they are age-restricted and periodically do a survey to prove they are meeting the age requirement. Theoretically, 20 percent of the remaining housing units could be occupied by anyone, but in order to make sure the community maintains the 80 percent occupancy by older people, they need to be careful not to allow too many younger people to occupy the homes.
The rule that 20 percent of the community can, at any time, not meet the age restriction allows for leeway in certain circumstances. For instance, if a couple is living in a home and the husband is 61 and the wife is 50, and the husband passes away, the law is designed so that she doesn’t have to move out. She can stay as long as she likes. It would be rare that situations like this would exceed 20 percent of the community.
Surviving spouses also can choose to sell their home and may sell it to anyone of any age as long as at least one occupant is 55 or older. It is that occupant who matters, not the owner.
Buyers need to look for the same things they would look for in a non-age-qualified community. There are not as many REALTORS® involved in purchases within an active adult community, so if buyers are choosing to buy on their own, they need to do the research on their own. Buyers should be doing a comparative market analysis on these communities, look into what amenities are in place, and look into what services will be available in the area. Working with a REALTOR® who specialized in senior housing would be a smart move for someone who doesn’t want to do all that research on their own.
Southern New Hampshire is home to many active adult communities, with more and more being built all the time. Call or e-mail Rudy Mayer for additional information on these properties.