In recent years, there has been a rise in the number of grandparents who have taken on the role of primary caregivers for their grandchildren. This can occur for various reasons – the parents may be unable or unwilling to care for the children, or may have passed away.
Whatever the reason, becoming a custodial grandparent brings major life changes. One of the most pressing issues grandparents face is ensuring there is adequate and appropriate housing for their new multigenerational family.
Below we will explore some of the unique challenges custodial grandparents encounter when it comes to housing, and provide tips and resources to aid in the housing search.
Challenges Custodial Grandparents Face with Housing
Raising grandchildren full-time presents some specific housing needs and difficulties:
Many grandparents are on fixed incomes or have limited resources. Providing adequate housing can be a struggle, especially with the sudden addition of children to the household. Rents and mortgages may be unaffordable on limited budgets.
Grandparents may be in housing designed for singles or couples, without enough bedrooms, bathrooms, or living space for children. Their current residence may not easily accommodate a growing family.
Safety & Accessibility
As grandparents age, mobility, health and safety considerations arise. Homes need to be adapted to be accessible and to keep young kids safe. Features like wide hallways, grab bars, and lack of stairs become necessary.
Local zoning laws may prohibit having multiple generations living together, or limit the number of unrelated people in a single dwelling. Grandparents may require special permission or need to move.
Proximity to Schools & Services
Kids need access to school and community resources. Grandparents may not be located close enough to critical services and need to relocate for practical reasons.
Making a major move later in life can be emotionally difficult. Grandparents may be resistant to packing up and leaving a long-time home full of memories.
Tips for Grandparents Seeking Appropriate Housing
When taking on custody of grandchildren, evaluating housing options through the lens of affordability, safety and proximity to services should be an early priority. Here are some tips:
Get Creative with Existing Space
Some minor renovations like adding a bedroom or converting a garage could work. Speak to a contractor about cost-effective ways to adapt your current home.
Evaluate Options Beyond Single Family Homes
Consider condos, co-ops, apartments or townhomes which offer more affordable multi-bedroom units. The right unit in a duplex may also present options.
Look Into Subsidized & Supportive Housing
There are programs that provide affordable housing specifically for seniors raising children. These units consider grandparents’ fixed incomes and unique needs.
Consider Multigenerational Living Arrangements
Moving in with the grandkids’ parents or other family can provide built-in support. Or grandparents can purchase a duplex/multifamily property and live together.
Focus the Housing Search Around Schools & Services
Look at homes that offer easy access to schools, transit, parks and other kid/senior services. Proximity likely trumps other factors.
Enlist Help of Housing Specialists
There are non-profit agencies that specialize in helping seniors and grandparents find appropriate housing. Consult an expert for advice and options.
Programs That Can Help with Housing Costs
For those who qualify based on income level and custodial situation, there are government and non-profit programs available to assist with housing expenses:
Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers
This HUD program provides vouchers to cover a portion of rent and utilities. Income requirements apply and there may be waiting lists.
HUD Multifamily Housing Programs
Some HUD apartment complexes provide reduced rent to low-income seniors raising relatives. Grandparents should inquire about availability.
Subsidized Senior Housing
Federally funded senior housing facilities charge rent based on income level. Custodial grandparents may qualify for units with preferential rent.
Local Non-Profit Agencies
Organizations like Catholic Charities sometimes have housing assistance funds, transitional shelter or affordable units designated for grandfamilies.
State & Local Property Tax Relief
Some municipalities offer property tax discounts to seniors. Custodial grandparents providing a home for grandchildren may qualify for reductions.
Energy/Utility Assistance Programs
Programs like LIHEAP help pay for heating, cooling and electric bills. This helps free up money for housing costs.
Housing Search Resources for Grandparents
Below are some helpful resources to assist grandparents in the search for appropriate housing:
- Grandfamilies State Contacts – Lists organizations by state that can help with housing search and placement based on location and custodial situation.
- Relatives as Parents Program – AARP’s housing guide aimed specifically at grandparents raising grandchildren.
- Affordable Housing Online – Database of low-income housing options searchable by location, availability and program qualification.
- HUD Housing Counseling Agencies – Find local counselors who provide guidance on affordable housing choice and placement.
- AgingCare Housing Options Guide – Details different types of housing from independent to assisted living and how to choose what’s right for a senior’s needs.
- Area Agency on Aging – Local agencies can offer information on senior housing, in-home services, legal resources and other support based on location.
Grandparents undertaking custodial care of grandchildren face the major task of ensuring their new multigenerational family has an appropriate, affordable home. While the changes can be overwhelming, resources and programs exist to help evaluate options and cover housing costs.
With some creativity and expert assistance, grandparents can find solutions that keep the family safe, happy, and together.