WEST PALM BEACH — Some seniors in our community are struggling and scared. It's the grim reality of today's housing market in South Florida. 

WPTV sat down and spoke with 76-year-old Arelene Paukert. She said her husband, Jim, passed away in August 2021 after a brief battle with COVID-19 after just three and a half years of marriage.

"When Jim passed away, I never, never, never expected to have this kind of trouble finding an apartment," she said. "A lot of the complexes that I called, they don't even return a call." 

Following her husband's death, Paukert said she found herself in a tough spot financially, reliant on county assistance as well as back to work.

"My credit has gone downhill because I've been using credit cards to survive, and my credit is, forget it," Paukert said.

NewsChannel 5 also met with 76-year-old Annfrances Watkins. She told WPTV that homeowners association and maintenance fees, plus inflation, are becoming unaffordable, forcing the retired nurse to make some tough choices.

Arelene Paukert explains the financial problems she has encountered since the death of her husband.

"The expenses have gone beyond what I can possibly handle," Watkins said. "I don't see how I'm going to be able to afford it without additional outside help financially."

WPTV also spoke with 69-year-old Suzanne Andreozzi on her lunch break.

"I work 40 hours a week, work a full-time job," Andreozzi said.

After a day at work, she told WPTV that she goes home to a room and bathroom that she rents from a 33-year-old coworker.

"She's young and stuff. She's a nice person. We're just not compatible because I am older," Andreozzi said. "I've always had my own place, and to be like this, is like, it's devastating."

A recent survey by the United States Census Bureau of seniors 65 and older across the country found 32% think they're "somewhat likely" to be evicted in the next two months. The number is 80% in Florida.

"That number is shocking," Ken Johnson, a housing and real-estate economist at Florida Atlantic University said. "That number shouldn't be that high. That's not good for our economy."

Johnson said migration and a shortage of housing units are to blame for driving up rents, with renters in our area spending 16.75% more than they should, according to October's Waller, Weeks and Johnson Rental Index.

He told WPTV that Palm Beach County needs roughly 7,400 new units a year to catch just the incoming population. Currently, he said we're building at a rate of about 3,600 units a year.
"With a great likelihood, we're going to see an affordable crisis that can stretch out over a number of years," Johnson said. "I think this problem will be especially chronic for seniors."

Jaclyn Tureff with Ruth and Norman Rales Jewish Family Services in Boca Raton told WPTV that the demand for financial assistance has increased.

"About five to seven seniors a week are calling that they cannot afford their apartments anymore or they're afraid of being evicted," Tureff said. "It's real. It's happening. All seniors are being affected by this."
Tureff explained how they're now trying to connect homeowners with renters as a possible solution for some seniors.

"They are seniors. They worked hard," Tureff said. "A lot of them came here to retire for a better life, and now they're struggling."