According to ONS’s findings, the UK’s population is ageing and is predicted to continue to age for the foreseeable future. This is due to declining fertility rates and people living longer. With an ageing population, it is important to examine what impact this may have on everyone's living situations.
Their findings focused on changes in housing tenure between 1993 and 2017 and what those changes might mean for older people in the future.
Much of what they found will unlikely come as a surprise to many. As they detail, younger people are less likely to own their home now than in the past, they are now more likely to be renting.
Half of people in their mid-30s to mid-40s had a mortgage in 2017, compared with two-thirds 20 years earlier. The shift to private renting is also prevalent.
A third of this age group were renting from a private landlord in 2017, compared with fewer than one in ten in 1997.
With less people in middle age owning homes more may end up renting in later years
However, it is not only young people being affected by this. If this trend continues into their older ages, in the future, older people may be more likely to be living in the private rental sector.
While elderly people today are more likely to on their home, this is dependant on taking a mortgage out by mid-life and assuming a constant income.
These elements are both in decline for today's middle aged population. Despite mortgage lenders today being more likely to loan to people at older ages than previously, people in mid-life now are far less likely to have a mortgage when compared to the past.
Regular income may also be less prevalent with the rise of zero hour contracts and the “gig economy”.
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The report makes it clear that despite the evidence, it is not an official projection of future housing tenure for older people.
There are many factors which could affect the type of housing that people live in, including government policy on provision of social housing, help to buy schemes, regulation of the private rental sector, and laws around inheritance. The report also dives into what the implications could be for an increase of older people renting privately:
As they detail: “The private rental sector has some advantages over owning a property, including maintenance responsibilities and costs falling on the landlord rather than the resident.
“This is something that may be particularly beneficial in later life as reduced income, deteriorating health and decreased cognitive function may impair the ability of people to maintain their homes. Renting privately may also mean that older people are more likely to be able to move to a different, better-suited property if their needs change, as they would not need to rely on the sale of their house.”
However, these types of benefits come at an unavoidable price. The private rental sector is the most expensive option in terms of housing costs. The ONS also touch on the responsibility of repairs and general upkeep, acknowledging that landlords may not always meet these obligations effectively.
This is an issue already affecting older private renters now. As such, it may become worse when more are potentially added to the private rental market.
As Polly Neate, chief executive of the housing charity Shelter exclusively told Express.co.uk: “For older private renters who haven’t bought – and cannot buy – their own home, the utter failure by successive governments to build social homes has left them in an impossible position.
“The sky-high cost of private rents means many older tenants face an uphill struggle in retirement – living in fear that the next rent hike will leave them homeless. On top of this heavy financial burden, a lot of privately rented homes simply aren’t up to scratch, so older people are being condemned to live out their later years in cramped, damp, or run-down properties.
“This country desperately needs a housing alternative that doesn’t leave older renters at risk of homelessness or make their daily lives a misery. That alternative is social housing. With the Budget fast approaching, we’re urging the government to invest in a new generation of stable social homes so that everyone in this country has a safe place to call home.”
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director for Age UK also provided insight into the rental market for older people, calling on the government to take action. She told Express.co.uk: “While renting can be a good solution for some older people, given the flexibility and choice it offers, this is far less likely to be the case at the bottom of the market.
“Here, older private tenants all too often report shoddy living conditions, unaffordable rents and worrying levels of disrepair. Property may also not be very accessible. These are important issues for older people, especially if they are not in good health as is often the case.
“Private renting would work better for older people if they had security of tenure, meaning they didn’t have to worry about being forced to move elsewhere. This is why Age UK thinks it is really important that the Government keeps its promise to abolish ‘Section 21’, an unfair rule which gives landlords too much scope to evict and that creates an imbalance in the rights and responsibilities of landlords and their tenants.”
It must be remembered that the current state of the private rental market for the elderly doesn’t have to be the same in the future. The ONS seem to recognise this, as they will be investigating the implications of living in the private rental sector in later life in further detail. This research is currently scheduled to be published in Spring 2020.