Rental Housing For An Ageing Population

Rental Housing for an Ageing Population

This week, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Housing and Care for Older People has released a new report titled “Rental Housing for an Ageing Population”. Following on from last week’s blog looking into the “Decent and Accessible Homes Report” (by the APPG on Ageing and Older People) we’re going to take a leaf through the findings of the “Rental Housing for an Ageing Population” report. You can read the report in full by clicking here.

The first thing to state is that it is pleasing to see the concerns of older private renters taken seriously. For too long there has been an assumption that “generation rent” refers only to younger renters making their first steps onto the property ladder. In reality, the number of older private renters is growing steeply, with the number of households in the private rented sector headed by someone aged over 64 expected to treble over the next 25 to 30 years. We highlighted this expected increase within our research report “Living in Fear”, which looked into the experiences of older private renters in London. It is pleasing to see that our research was referenced by the Rental Housing for an Ageing Population report.

The APPG’s report, discovers many of the same concerns for older private renters as our Living in Fear research. Namely that older private tenants feel the absence of security of tenure, the costs of high rents, and an inability to secure the repairs and adaptations needed to live safely and securely at home. While these issues affect renters of all ages, there are specific challenges that the private rented sector poses for many older tenants. For example, most older private renters do not expect their incomes to increase in the near future, making it harder to react to rising rent costs. In addition, many older private renters are living with long-term conditions or limited mobility which can make the prospect of moving home especially unappealing. Some older renters we spoke to were enduring high rents at the expense of living standards to avoid the difficulty of moving. The “no-fault eviction” clause Section 21 made things even more challenging, as many of the older private renters we spoke to avoided requesting repairs, maintenance, or accessibility adaptations on their flat for fear of being seen as a “problem tenant” and evicted.

Rental Housing For An Ageing Population

The “Rental Housing for an Ageing Population” report has a series of stark predictions for the future, most worryingly that 630,000 members of so-called ‘Generation Rent’ are facing an “inevitable catastrophe” of homelessness when they retire. This is because people’s incomes typically halve after retirement, leaving them less able to cope with large rent costs – which are especially high in London. If rents rise at the same rate as earnings, the inquiry found that 52% of pensioners in the private rental sector will be paying more than 40% of their income on rent by 2038. It is said that this will see at least 630,000 millennials unable to afford their rent. The report states that an addition 21,000 homes a year must be build to avoid this scenario.
While this is hugely worrying, it is also great concern that the report’s recommendations are prefaced with the following:
“We note that, since three quarters of people over pension age currently live in their own homes, immediate pressures to build age-friendly accommodation to rent are relatively modest.”
It certainly is true that the number of older private renters is set to grow rapidly in the coming years, but this does not negate the needs of the thousands of older private sector tenants in London. Protecting older private renters of the future means protecting them today and it is strange that the report seems to overlook this. Age UK London is currently campaigning to make London an Age-friendly City and age-friendly housing is a key element of this work. As with most age-friendly initiatives, action in the present will have a positive impact in the future.
With that in mind we are encouraged that the Mayor announced today his desire to create a new Private Rent Commission with power devolved to London so that rents can be lowered and tenancies kept secure. Age UK London will be watching these developments with interest.
In summary, there are useful ideas for the future within the “Rental Housing for an Ageing Population” report, but we must act now to ensure that older tenants can live in safe, affordable, & accessible homes. Until then, London cannot be considered a truly Age-friendly City.

George Harvey

George is Age UK London's Communications and Campaigns Officer.

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