What is a 55+ Community?
By Kyle F. Reinson
55+ communities are popular real estate offerings attractive to retirees and pre-retirees. Here’s an explanation of their unique characteristics and how they continue to evolve.
Billed as hubs for “active adult living,” 55+ master-planned communities have specific rules about the minimum age of their resident homeowners and renters. These rules are authorized by an amendment to the Fair Housing Act allowing age-restricted living. Communities are classified as 55+ under the direction of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
55+ communities do not allow anyone under the age of 18 to live there full-time, although visitors are allowed for specific numbers of weeks per year, as stated in the homeowner association documents.
People who are not yet 55 or older are also allowed to live in these communities provided their spouse is at least 55. Many communities require at least 80% of the housing to be occupied by 55+ owners or renters, with up to 20% only required to be 50 years or older.
One of the advantages to 55+ communities is their ability to attract like-minded people that enjoy amenities like golf courses and recreation facilities as well as all common areas. Many are also built near health care facilities, which adds to their appeal with age-qualified buyers and renters.
Sometimes, 55+ communities can be seen in a negative light because they segregate people by age and can form voting blocks that do not support taxes for education. However, many 55+ communities support education through resident volunteerism in local school districts.
Their purpose as places for people 55+ to live and stay active means that many communities have extensive programming for fitness, crafts and social activities that result in regular fees to maintain the common interests of resident homeowners and renters. The scope of amenities is usually linked to the number of homes in a 55+ community.
More homes usually mean more common spaces to accommodate the larger population. Developers try to build amenities that appeal to the average 50+ buyer ranging from walking trails to dedicated spaces for social activities and even tot lots for visiting grandchildren.
History and Evolution
The first major successful 55+ community was built by a company named for its founder Del E. Webb. Webb is said to have reacted to a publicity contest to name this new type of master-planned community by selecting the name Sun City, and the original Sun City is still thriving near Phoenix, Arizona.
In the 1950s, Webb’s company recognized that the first generation of retirees who could begin drawing income from Social Security could afford to live in a 55+ community and based their original pricing on the fixed incomes of the retirees of that era. Today, thousands of 55+ communities have been built and feature homes in almost any price range.
About the Author
Kyle F. Reinson is the co-founder of Associations PR, a national consulting firm that develops custom workshops and communication training for Community Managers, Management Companies and Homeowner Association leadership. Reinson, a former college professor, began his professional real estate communication career with Del Webb Corporation (NYSE:PHM) and WCI Communities, Inc. (NYSE: WCI).