Fears over plight of elderly renters struggling to pay housing costs

More than half of over-55s privately renting in London worry about getting into debt because their housing costs are too high, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

credit Kaspars Eglitis via Unsplash
credit Kaspars Eglitis via Unsplash

The plight of older people struggling to make ends meet in London’s private rental market has been highlighted by new polling data.

An analysis of YouGov statistics by the National Housing Federation (NHF) has found that more than half of over-55s privately renting in the capital worry about getting into debt because their housing costs are too high.

Nearly a third said their housing situation affects their mental health, while two-fifths admitted they are seeing less of their friends and family as they are worried about the costs involved.

The government said it is passing legislation to make renting fairer for tenants, is on track to build one million homes this parliament, and is providing £104billion in cost of living support.

The number of people over-55 who are renting privately has risen by more than 70% in the last decade, growing at three-and-a-half times the rate of the population. Today, there are an estimated 866,870 older private renting households in England, of which 84,717 are in London.

Older private rented households are defined as those which have at least one person over the age of 55 living there.

Although London’s proportion of these households is relatively low compared to other parts of England, for those who are reliant on the private rental sector in the capital, the experience appears to be worse than elsewhere.

The percentage of older people worried about debt, their mental health and their reduced ability to see friends and family due to the high cost of private renting, are all lower according to the polling in England as a whole, compared with the London-specific data.

Kate Henderson, the NHF’s chief executive, said the analysis “shows that the chronic lack of social housing is now impacting our aging population in devastating ways”.

She said: “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.”

Kate said this was due to a failure by successive governments to build enough affordable homes, adding: “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.”

A government spokesperson said: “The Renters Reform Bill will deliver a fairer, more secure, and higher quality private rented sector, and through our long-term plan for housing we are on track to build one million homes this parliament, despite challenging economic headwinds.

“We are also providing £104bn in cost of living support, including raising benefits and pensions in line with inflation, and helping people with essentials through the Household Support Fund.”

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