While the homeownership rate among Americans age 65 and older has remained at a constant 80 percent for the past decade, the percent of older Americans with outstanding mortgage debt has increased since the start of the housing crisis, according to a report released Wednesday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
About 30 percent of older Americans hold mortgage debt as of 2011, according to the CFPB, up 8 percentage points from 2001.
The rate increased even more dramatically among those age 75 and older. In 2001, 8.4 percent of those 75 and older had outstanding mortgages, while 21.2 percent had outstanding mortgages in 2011, according to the CFPB.
About 4.4 million Americans are retired and still paying on their mortgage loans, according to the CFPB.
Not only has the percentage of older Americans holding mortgage debt increased but so too has the amount of debt these seniors owe. In 2001, the median outstanding mortgage debt among older mortgage holders was $43,300. As of 2011, the median debt among seniors with outstanding mortgages was $79,000.
"A home can be a place of security for older Americans in their retirement years—a roof over their heads as well as a valuable asset," said Richard Cordray, director of the CFPB.
"But as more seniors carry significant mortgages into retirement, they put themselves at risk of losing their nest eggs and their homes," he added.
In fact, the serious delinquency rate among seniors—the rate of those age 65 to 74 who were 90 or more days past due on their mortgages—rose significantly during the financial crisis. Starting at a rate of 0.85 percent in 2007, serious delinquencies among seniors rose to 4.96 percent by 2011.
"While delinquency and foreclosure rates have decreased since 2012, foreclosure among older homeowners is still a significant problem," the CFPB stated.
About half of retired seniors with mortgage debt pay more than 30 percent of their household income on housing costs, the CFPB stated.
Factors contributing to the rising rate of older Americans with mortgage debt include the refinancing boom of the 2000s, and "a general trend among Americans to buy their first home later in life, provide small down payments on home purchases, and borrow against their home equity to pay for a variety of expenses," according to the CFPB.