Active Adult Communities: Legalized Age-Discrimination in Housing
The concept of a Never-Never Land of golf and leisure, inhabited exclusively by adults 50 and older is not new. It started in the 1950s, popularized by real estate developer and marketing genius Del Webb and his social experiment in Arizona, Sun City. Up until ten or so years ago, these retirement enclaves were predominately located in the sun-belt regions of the country, and although marketed to retirees, were not legally age-restricted.
Largely as a result of lobbying efforts from the home building industry, this all changed when age-segregation was codified under the Fair Housing Act with the passage of the Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995, which allowed communities to restrict ownership of housing to persons 50 and older and to prohibit children from living there. In many communities children visiting beyond a certain number of days is a serious offense, which can result in one being forced to move out of the community.
Can you imagine applying such restrictions to any other population? A housing community only for families – anyone over 50 must move out? A housing community only legally inhabitable for Christians or Jews? It sounds –and is – ominous. Human beings do not have a good track record when it comes to segregating certain portions of the population.
“Age-segregated communities” or the more popular acronym “active-adult communities” have proliferated in recent years, far beyond the sun-belt regions. Municipalities are often eager to attract these low-crime and seemingly low-maintenance developments in favor of other types of housing communities. Notably, there have been few critiques from policymakers or aging professionals regarding the spread of these geritiopias and the social policy implications of an increasingly age-segregated society—or what happens when “active adults” become increasingly “less-active elders.”
For an insiders look around today’s age-segregated housing options, check out A Place Called Canterbury: Tales of the New Old Age in America by Dudley Clendinen and Leisureville: Adventures in America’s Retirement Utopias by Andrew D. Blechman.
A Place Called Canterbury: Tales of the New Old Age in America Cover