Kingsport-Bristol sees big increase in older renters, decline among the younger set; Johnson City maintains status quo

Demographics here in the Tri-Cities look quite a bit different than they did a decade ago. The region – like the nation – is rapidly aging. The most current Census estimates show over 25% of the current area population is 60 or older.

As this trend progresses, it will affect almost all aspects of the local, regional and national economy, businesses and government services. Housing is not an exception. During the decade ending in 2017, the number of elders who rent has increased by 36.3% in the Kingsport-Bristol Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) while it has decreased by 3.5% in the Johnson City MSA.

That doesn’t mean homeownership doesn’t dominate the area housing market. The most current Census estimates show 29.5% of the households in the Johnson City MSA are renter-occupied – 27.5% in Kingsport-Bristol. But there is a notable demographic shift occurring that affects the housing industry.

While the number of renters who are 60 years old and older has increased in Kingsport-Bristol the number of renters 25-59 has decreased by 3.5%. That shift isn’t seen in the Johnson City MSA where the number of younger renters has increased 4.3% in the last 10 years compared to the 4.5% increase for elder renters.

Them seems to point to increased opportunities for multi-family investors who are syncing with the aging trend. Discussions with property managers in Kingsport show the same results of the Census data. One large complex has an estimated 30% occupancy of retired people. But while there is some pointed competition among Kingsport apartment complexes it hasn’t focused on the aging demographic, yet. The counterpoint is the city of Kingsport’s subsidy of a major downtown luxury complex intended to attract the same age group of renters that Census data shows is declining. City officials have said they think the Town Park Lofts will attract younger professionals from other areas. Increasing accommodations with amenities targeted to a younger clientele make sense on the surface, but it’s too early to see how well that plan works or if it’s sustainable. Meanwhile, the complex reportedly recently changed hands. Bankers, property managers, and real estate professionals talk about it, but both the original firm and the reported new owner are have not responded to requests for comment.

Homeownership among the 25-to-59-year-old age group in both metro areas has also declined during the past decade. It’s down 3.5% in the Johnson City MSA and 15.8% in Kingsport-Bristol. At the same time, homeownership of the 60 plus group has increased by 26.9% in the Johnson City metro area and 21% in Kingsport-Bristol.

The opportunities and demands imposed on the housing industry by the changing dramatic are expected to increase. The youngest Baby Boomers will be 55 this year. The oldest of that generation is now in their early 70s. Broad answers to how the housing market, the business community, and governments will adapt to these demands haven’t been a mass media or civic discussion, yet.

Look for the demand for more in-home health care to increase across the spectrum from full and part-time helpers to things like meal delivery to security checks. At the same time, the need for full-time care facilities will increase.

Law enforcement officials are also aware that the frequency of elder abuse and fraud has increased.

A recent Kiplinger report said it’s estimated that $37 billion is stolen every year by scammers targeting the elderly each year. It varies from elders with cognitive decline to savvy investors. On average 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day. Locally the number is about 25 a day, and self-directed accounts leave many more vulnerable.

Thieves are both strangers and trusted people as evidenced by the number of reports about relatives, caregivers and investment advisers taking advantage. The Senior Save Act that was passed in 2018 allows bank employees to report suspected cases of elder financial abuse to authorities without fear of being sued and some state has increased elder fraud to felony status, according to Kiplinger.

Experts look more help from technology from the financial industry, but like physical abuse – it will be a tough crime to contain.

The list of businesses and services the demographic change will touch is almost limitless.




1 reply

  1. No surprise to the real estate industry participants as more and more demand is created for single level maintenance free living homes. The stairs to the second floor and basement area where the kids spent home time is now only attractive to young families moving here for new jobs, or are they? Even the new homes built today now feature aging in place amenities and don’t have any stairs in the first place offering open space design. Letting go of the lifelong collection of stuff you just can’t let go of is the larger challenge and is giving storage facilities like the new air temperature control facility in Johnson City at N Roan and I-26 a big boost on demand. Why else would you build a million dollar storage facility in the first place and why would U-Haul be converting Kingsport’s Stone Drive prime K Mart location for storage use. Former grocery stores have been converting to storage families for years and in prime commercial locations when I thought they had to locate in light manufacturing zones. What is happening here to our population trends. Whys are the cities permitting all these storage facilities in the prime retail district of our most prosperous cities. I suppose stuff is just too valuable to sell so you just pay to store it and never see it again until your ready to sell it. Aging is a wonderful lifestyle and I am enjoying mine on our island in the Appalachian Highlands as I stare at the clock getting ready to chime on 70. Now back to the curious population growth question…WHY did you move here, WHAT year and WHAT generation did your represent when you moved here. Are you planning on retiring here or Have you moved here to retired? Share your story…

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