KINGWOOD — As we age, our housing needs change, but the inventory of available housing locally may not be meeting the challenge.
“I think if builders were to look at the kind of housing that would sell very quickly in this area, it’s to look at housing that can work for anybody, of any age. And the basic answer to ‘What is that?’ is a ranch home,” said Jessica Lipscomb, Realtor with Houses & More Real Estate. “A single-level home works for everyone.”
As we get older, stairs can be challenging, Lipscomb noted. But a single-level, three-bedroom, two-bath home with a garage works for everyone now and in the future.
One problem people have in downsizing is letting go of some of the possessions accumulated over the years.
“So a lot of times the lack of storage that comes with a small, easy-to-maintain ranch is an issue,” Lipscomb said. “If you could figure a way to develop homes, patio homes, that sort of thing, that also offer storage, whether it’s attic space or preferably like a two-car garage, some sort of storage shed in the yard — that always seems to be an issue when I’m showing homes to people looking to downsize into a smaller ranch.”
Planned communities aren’t available in Preston County, but Morgantown does have some 55-plus communities, and Lipscomb said they attract people from Preston and other counties.
“I think a lot of our people would like to stay in Preston County because they’ve spent their whole life here, but they’re moving to Morgantown because that’s where the opportunity is for assisted living or downsized living,” she said.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, “the Fair Housing Act specifically exempts three types of housing for older persons from liability for familial status discrimination. Such exempt housing facilities or communities can lawfully refuse to sell or rent dwellings to families with minor children only if they qualify for the exemption.”
In order to qualify for the Housing for Older Persons exemption, a facility or community must comply with all the requirements of the exemption.
According to HUD, the Housing for Older Persons exemptions applies to “housing provided under any state or federal program that the Secretary of HUD has determined to be specifically designed and operated to assist elderly persons (as defined in the state or federal program); intended for and solely occupied by persons 62 years of age or older; or intended and operated for occupancy by persons 55 years of age or older.”
The 55-or-older exemption is the most common of the three, according to HUD.
Multi-generational families are not uncommon in Preston County, but few are living in spaces specifically designed for that, Lipscomb said. Instead, she sees families altering a single-family home to make it work for two or three generations. That can be problematic when the time comes to sell the home.
Transportation is another consideration when seeking housing, and, again, Preston County offers limited options. The Buckwheat Express has limited routes, and the county doesn’t have taxis, Uber or Lyft. It seems like a great business opportunity, Lipscomb said. A lot of people would use those options to get to doctor appointments or shopping or to avoid driving in the winter, she said.
“We have a lot of good things happening in our county for seniors. I think our senior centers do an awesome job providing meals and activities and a social environment, a sense of connection, but as far as housing and transportation, we definitely have a lot of challenges,” Lipscomb said.
Staff writer Kathy Plum may be reached at 304-290-4805 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.