No place for older renters

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By Chit Selvarajah, Policy Manager at Independent Age

There are more than 400,000 older private renters in England. But despite numbers increasing by about 50% in the last decade, their stories don’t always feature in the housing debate. At Independent Age we are focused on ensuring that older people in financial hardship live in safe, secure, and suitable housing. As part of this, we want to better understand how the housing crisis affects low-income older renters.

Last year we conducted research with older private renters living in financial insecurity to hear their stories and work out how to improve their housing experiences. The research showed that older private renters are about three times more likely to be in poverty compared to older homeowners – with 37% of them living in income poverty. Many shared with us that they live in cold, damp homes, struggle to pay their rent and live in fear of being evicted from their homes without having done anything wrong.

In 2023 we followed up our initial research with analysis of where older private and social renters live in England. Using census data, we analysed which local authorities have seen the biggest increases and decreases in social and private renters in England over the last decade. Our report No Place for Older Renters found that only two inner London authorities saw an increase in the proportion of older social renters reflecting a national picture of falling rates of older social renters .

It also discovered that the proportion of older people who rent privately is falling in large cities, particularly inner London, and rising in rural and costal areas. Like the rest of England, Greater Manchester shows clear increases in the proportion of older private renters with Bolton seeing a 32% increase in older private renters between 2011 and 2021. But up the coast we see some more dramatic changes; Blackpool, Wyre and Fylde saw some of the biggest increases in older private renters in the country. You can have a look at the data in your area using the interactive maps we developed.

There are many reasons why older people may be concentrating in different areas. Unfortunately, we don’t think this trend is about older people deciding to move to the seaside to live out their retirement. Instead, if we add what older people have told us about rent costs, it seems that older people are being forced to move from their existing communities – for some more expensive areas in cities – to cheaper, deprived areas.

Moving home for any reason can be stressful at any time of life. But for older private renters there can be specific challenges. Moving far away from your community can mean losing the support networks of family and friends that many older people rely on. It can also mean moving away from familiar health and community services, to areas where these services are overstretched and underfunded.

Our work is clear: older people who rent, alongside those from other ages also face the serious consequences of the housing crisis.

At Independent Age, we want to see more support and rights for older people who rent. To make this a reality, we need the UK Government to quickly pass and implement a comprehensive Renters (Reform) Bill to give more people much-needed security. We also want to see the UK Government commit long term to increasing the local housing allowance so that it keeps pace with rising local rents to help stop people feeling like they have no choice but to move. Every person deserves a good home, and older people need it just as much as anyone else.


This article is featured in our 20 March newsletter

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