BY TREVOR PETTIFORD PINELLAS COUNTY
PUBLISHED 9:15 PM ET AUG. 07, 2023
LARGO, Fla. — The high price of leasing a home is putting the squeeze on every renter, but for senior citizens on a fixed budget, it becomes a budget crisis.
Ella Huguley was planning to live out her retirement years in a cozy apartment in Largo, but a recent letter from apartment managers announcing a rent increase could change everything.
“We’re all on Social Security disability of some sort,” she said. “And we’re fixed and our rent just went up $155 a month.”
Everyone who rents shares his feelings about the sticker shock of leasing a place, but the high rent is an especially low blow to senior citizens.
Ann Marie Winter at the Area Agency on Aging said they’re hearing a collective cry for help from senior tenants.
“[There's been] a spike in the number of calls to our elder helpline in the first six months of this year,” she said. "They are at risk of losing where they live."
Winter mentions there has been a 26% increase in the number of seniors calling just for housing and security — in addition to a 75% increase in those identifying as homeless.
Winter says the average Social Security check in Florida is about $1,700.
In most cases, seniors are using more than half of it to pay their rent and in some cases, their rent takes the whole check.
Huguley fears what this will do to her.
“Our only option is to pay it,” she said. “'So when does it come in here cutting the grocery?' I mean, our electric bills are already going up.”
That’s a disturbing option for hundreds of thousands of senior renters in Florida.
There is an option to subsidize fixed incomes, but Winter says their situation can serve as a cautionary tale for people about to retire.
“Make sure that when you are in being interviewed for an apartment or house that you can afford it. It should not exceed 30% of your income,” she said.