A new report from the National Housing Federation (NHF) claims to lay bare the stark realities faced by older renters struggling to get by in the private rented sector.
According to the report, 42% of older private renters – those aged 55 and above – in England say they regularly struggle to afford basic living costs like buying food, heating their homes, or paying for clothes. This equates to 364,479 households, according to the NHF.
The report reveals what the organisation says is the “stark economic and social reality” faced by the fast-growing number of older people living in “expensive, insecure privately rented homes”.
The number of people over the age of 55 renting privately has rocketed by over 70% in the last decade, it says, growing at three and a half times the rate of the population. Today, there are 866,870 older private renting households in England.
Kate Henderson, the NHF’s chief executive, said: “[The] report shows that the chronic lack of social housing is now impacting our ageing population in devastating ways.
“The health of older private renters is at risk as hundreds of thousands struggle to buy food and heat their homes, and when even seeing friends and family is too expensive this leads to loneliness and isolation.
“More worrying still, the research indicates that an already critical situation is on the verge of getting much worse, as a huge number of middle-aged private renters approach retirement with no affordable housing options available to them.
“This exemplifies how broken our housing system has become, that the very people that social housing exists to support – the poorest and most vulnerable in our society – are now living in the least secure, poorest quality and most expensive homes in the private rented sector.”
According to a YouGov poll of 2,024 older renters living in the private rented sector, conducted for the NHF:
- 42% of older private renters regularly struggle to cover their basic living costs such as buying food and clothes or heating their homes. This equates to 364,479 households
- 48% of older private renters worry about getting into debt due to their housing and other living costs being too high. This could affect 416,098 households
- 23%) of older private renters have been asked to leave their current or previous home. This equates to 199,380 households
- 49% of retired older private renters say their quality of life is severely impacted by their housing costs. This could affect 193,898 people
- 37% of retired older private renters see less of their family and friends because they are worried about the costs involved. This could affect 146,413 people
- 52% of older private renters who are still working want to retire but can’t currently afford to due to their housing costs. This equates to 191,331 people
Private renting pensioners (65+) – the oldest age demographic – are the most likely to be on very low incomes, the report says. It claims 48% of private renting pensioners are in the lowest income bracket in England (the bottom fifth), meaning they live on just £11,341 a year on average after tax.
The NHF says that once upon a time, these low-income renters would have access to secure and affordable social housing. However, due to the chronic shortage of social homes, this is no longer the case.
The research also predicts a “ticking time bomb” of pensioners affected by insecurity and high costs in the private rented sector in the years to come.
According to the figures, pre-retirement private renters, in the 55-64 age group, have increased faster than any other group – six times the rate of the population in ten years. With average earnings falling after the age of 50, as this group enters retirement with no other housing options available the NHF says it is likely we’ll see a “huge spike” in pensioners living in private rented homes they cannot afford.
Based on this latest report, the NHF is calling on all political parties to commit in their manifestos to a national, long-term plan to end the housing crisis, which prioritises social housing.
Henderson added: “This is the result of successive governments failing to plan for affordable homes over the long term. There is no time to lose. As we head towards the next election, we urge all political parties to put an end to decades of short-term, inadequate housing policy decisions and commit to a national long-term plan that prioritises building social housing.”
Main image: Kate Henderson, NHF chief executive
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