The effects of financial security and housing tenure on enjoying later life
Housing tenure is a factor that can have a big impact on our quality of life, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Evidence Officer, Millie Brown, examines the factors that affect housing tenure and subsequently our potential quality of life.
With the UK now in its third month of lockdown we are spending more time than ever in our homes – but for some, home can be a source of ill-health rather than safety. A recent ONS report offers an insight into how housing tenure can have serious implications on how enjoyable our later life is due to financial pressures, housing quality, health, and the accessibility and adaptability of the individual’s home. The report highlights that whilst society is right to worry about the notoriously bad private rented sector, we must also not buy into the age-old stereotype of wealthy older homeowners.
The ONS analysis reveals that housing costs are highest for the private rental sector and lowest for those who own outright. On average, households in the rented sector have lower incomes than homeowners so are paying higher costs with lower incomes. As a result these individuals are more likely to live in fuel poverty – shockingly, almost a fifth of private rented households containing someone aged 60 or over live in this reality.
Whilst private renting can offer older people a level of flexibility, not having the autonomy (or money) to carry out maintenance can lead to an increased likelihood of living in a non-decent home. Our ‘Home and Dry’ report echoes the ONS findings that the privately rented sector had the highest proportion of poor-quality homes (30%) compared to homeowners and the socially rented sector. Housing is not only key to our happiness but to our health. The ONS data states that people aged 60 to 69 years old living in the private rented sector were more likely to report bad general health than homeowners. Whilst people from lower income backgrounds may experience poorer health in the private rented sector, poor quality housing is a key determinant for all older people’s health. The NHS spends £513 million alone on first year treatment costs for over 55s living in the poorest quality housing. Reforms to the private rented sector are clearly needed to ensure that private rented homes are affordable, secure and decent.
Older homeowners cannot be stereotyped into one traditional assumptions of wealth just as much as we do not assume everyone living in the rented sector is living in unsuitable and non-decent housing.
Perhaps the most troubling findings were those concerning savings. For those paying a mortgage, 45% of households containing someone aged 60 years or over have no savings buffer, and almost a quarter (23%) of those who own their house outright have no savings at all. This puts them in a very precarious position should they need to pay for housing repairs or adaptations. With no savings repairs are less likely to be made and the house then becomes non-decent – some 78% of non-decent homes headed by someone over the age of 55 are owner occupiers. Older homeowners cannot be stereotyped into one traditional assumptions of wealth just as much as we do not assume everyone living in the rented sector is living in unsuitable and non-decent housing.
Action is needed to ensure that no one, regardless of their financial situation or tenure, lives in a home that endangers their health or safety. Our home environment is key not only to our health, but also to our happiness. At the Centre for Ageing Better we are committed to ensuring that people’s homes are not a barrier to enjoying later life.