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Housing | The State of Ageing 2022

An increasing number of people are rented rather than owning their own homes in later life. And millions of homes are bad for people's health and wellbeing.

Housing

The State of Ageing 2022 is an online report with multiple chapters. Below, you can get further detail by clicking on the 'Find out more' buttons and you can hover over graphs to access the data. You can also download the Summary.

Key points

  • Millions of people live in homes that are damaging their health and wellbeing and many are unable to make the changes needed to make their homes warm and safe due to a lack of money, time, support and/or advice.
  • COVID-19, and the associated lockdowns, brought into sharp focus the need for everyone to have a warm, dry home, free from hazards, and easy to get in and out of. The pandemic also provided a stark illustration of the consequences when these things were not the case. Overcrowding was one of the reasons for higher mortality rates from COVID-19 in certain population groups (e.g. BAME groups). So, too, was having certain health conditions, such as respiratory diseases, that can be caused and exacerbated by poor-quality housing.
  • More recently, cost-of-living increases and energy price rises once again highlight the vital importance of well-insulated, damp-free homes that mean people don’t have to choose whether to ‘heat or eat’. One estimate suggests that 21.5% of excess winter deaths may be due to cold housing.
  • Half of the 4 million non-decent homes in England – those that fail to meet basic decency criteria as defined by the government – are headed by someone aged 60 or over. Those aged 75 and over are most likely to be living in homes that are too cold and/or lack modern facilities.
  • Only 9% of homes have all four accessibility features (a WC at entrance level; flush threshold; sufficiently wide doorways and circulation space; and level access) that make a home visitable.
  • Across the country, 1 million homes are lived in by someone who requires an adaptation but is going without; a third of these people are aged 55 and over.  
  • The significant increase in the number of people set to rent rather than own their home in later life is changing our relationship with our home. The proportion of privately rented homes headed by someone aged 55-64 increased from 6.3% in 2010/11 to 11.3% in 2020/21. In the last year, it has risen particularly sharply, from 9.9% to 11.3%. Renting privately means higher levels of financial insecurity and the potential for more pensioner poverty. The private rented sector also has the highest proportion of poor-quality homes.
  • Home owners also face challenges. Recent estimates suggest that nearly half of all households in relative poverty are owner occupied, and of these 1 million are headed by someone aged 55 and over. Home owners are also the largest group in terms of the numbers living in non-decent homes, far larger than the number in private or socially rented housing. Without the means to undertake vital repairs, these homes may become increasingly hazardous to the health of those living in them. And without the means to adapt their homes to their needs as they age, home owners may find their independence and quality of life seriously, and avoidably, limited.

What needs to happen

Focused action from across government to tackle the national crisis that is our poor-quality housing stock by:

  • Tasking and funding local government to deliver a ‘Good Home Agency’ in every community that can deliver information and advice on: home improvements, including energy retrofit services; ‘Home MOTs’; trusted local tradespeople; low-cost finance options; and the Disabled Facilities Grant.
  • Support the development of financial products by the financial sector and regional and local government to enable owner occupiers to improve their homes.

Introducing regulations to ensure that all new homes are fit for the future by:

  • Acting urgently to raise mandatory building standards so that the ‘accessible and adaptable’ design standard is the baseline for all new homes, and that enough homes are built for wheelchair users.

1. Patterns of tenure

Most older people own their own home

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What does the chart show?

  • People in mid- and later life most commonly live in a home that they own. But while rates of owner occupation among people aged 65 and over have been increasing over time, those of younger age groups have been declining:*

    • There are almost 7 million homes in England headed by someone aged 65 or over. In total, 80% of those homes are owner occupied (5.5 million) and almost all of those (75%) are owned outright with no mortgage.
    • This represents an increase in both the number and proportion since 2003/04 when 71% (or 3.6 million) of all homes headed by someone aged 65 or over were owner occupied.
    • In contrast, there are 4.4 million homes headed by someone aged 45-54 and 65% of those (almost 3 million) are owner occupied. Unlike with the over 65s, this proportion has decreased over time, from 81% (3.2 million homes) in 2003/04.
    • It is notable that there was an almost 2-percentage-point decline in the proportion of owner-occupied homes headed by someone aged 45-54 between 2019/20 and 2020/21 (a decrease of 233,000 homes).
  • Meanwhile, there has been a pronounced increase in the number and proportion of people aged 45-54 and 55-64 renting their homes from private landlords (see more details on private renters below).
  • The proportion of socially rented** homes headed by someone aged 65 or over has decreased, from 25% of all homes headed by this age group in 2003/04 to 15% in 2020/21.
  • Meanwhile, the number of socially rented homes headed by someone aged 55-64 has increased by 5%, from 517,000 in 2003/04 to 814,000 in 2020/21, with an increase of 142,000 in the year to 2020/21 alone.

 

* Much of the data used in this chapter is from the English Housing Survey. Where data is presented by age, this refers to the age of the ‘household reference person’, who is the individual who completed the survey on behalf of the household. We also describe this person as the ‘head of the household’ or refer to households headed by people of a particular age.

The English Housing Survey notes that the formation of household bubbles during the pandemic led to 2020/21 being an unusual year for the survey with many people missing because of temporary home moves (the survey only collects data on permanent members of the household). They note that this likely explains unusual trends in the tenure profile of younger people in the latest data. However, it is unlikely to explain the trends among people in mid-life, among whom a sharp fall in home ownership and an increase in renting – particularly social renting – has occurred.

** Social housing is lower-cost rented housing provided by landlords registered with the social housing regulator, known as a social landlord. Social landlords could be a council or a housing association.

There are large disparities in home ownership between different ethnic groups

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What does the chart show?

  • In general, people aged 50-69 from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds in England are much less likely to own their home outright without a mortgage and more likely to be renting than people in the White ethnic group.
  • The situation is worst for people from Black ethnic groups, who are three times less likely to own their own home outright and more than twice as likely to be renting. Of those renting, about a quarter are renting privately. We do not have data on tenure changes by ethnic group since the pandemic.

Since 2003, the number of people aged 55 and over renting privately has more than doubled – a trend that is set to continue

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What does the chart show?

  • The number of privately rented homes headed by someone aged 55 or over has been steadily increasing – from a low of 366,000 in 2003/04 to a high of 867,000 in 2020/21 – an increase of 92,000 on the previous year.

We also know that:

The increase in the number of private renters aged 55 and over is not just because there are more people aged 55 and over than there were 20 years ago. The proportion of people (in every age group except the over 65s) in the private rented sector is also rising:

  • The proportion of privately rented homes headed by someone aged 55-64 has increased from 6% in 2010/11 to 11% in 2020/21.
  • The proportion of privately rented homes headed by someone aged 45-54 has increased from 11% to 16% over the same period.

Although owner occupation is the most common form of tenure for people in mid- and later life, it is clear that it is becoming increasingly difficult for people in mid-life to buy their own home. As rates of owner occupation among people in their fifties and sixties fall, future generations of older people will be less and less likely to own their own homes. Just before the pandemic, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People estimated that there would be an additional 1.5 million households over pension age in the private rental sector by 2045 (making a total of 2.3 million). The pronounced trends in the latest English Housing Survey data suggest that this may well turn out to be an underestimate.

2. Financial pressures

1.6 million households headed by someone aged 55 or over are in poverty

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What do the charts show?

  • There are a total of 4.6 million households in poverty. One-third of these (1.6 million) are homes headed by someone aged 55 or over.
  • There are a quarter of a million privately rented households headed by someone aged 55 or over that are in poverty. This means that 33% of privately rented homes headed by someone aged 55 or over are in poverty. For people aged 35-54 in private rentals, the proportion is 36%.
  • The pattern of households without any savings mirrors that of households in poverty:
    • Two-thirds of households that are privately rented by someone aged 65-74 and almost half of those rented by someone aged 75 or over have no savings.

We also know that:

  • 14% of all households headed by someone aged 55 or over are in poverty.
  • A total of 3.7 million households headed by someone aged 55 or over has no savings; 57% of these are owner-occupied.
  • Around one-quarter of owner-occupied households headed by someone aged 65 or over has no savings.

People who own their homes may have had a smaller mortgage to pay off than the mortgages that today’s home buyers are faced with. But a large number are still living in poverty, putting them at risk of serious financial challenges when it comes to maintaining their homes. Without the means to undertake vital repairs, they may end up in homes that are cold, damp and unsuitable for their needs, ultimately endangering their health and reducing their independence. 

The proportion of income that is spent on private rent rises steadily with age

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What does the chart show?

  • The proportion of income that is spent on private rent rises steadily with age: the oldest people (aged 75 and over) spend almost half of their income on rent.

Prior to the pandemic, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People had forecast that, by the mid-2040s, 630,000 householders over pension age who are privately renting will struggle to meet the cost of their homes. With the recent sharp increase in the number of older private renters, it is likely that this is an underestimate.

In 2012/13, the overall proportion of households in the private rental sector overtook those in the social rented sector for the first time. There are different definitions of what counts as ‘social housing’; indeed, the government’s own definition has shifted in the last decade. Nonetheless, if we use the broadest definition of social housing – homes rented by local authorities, housing associations or other parts of the public sector – then we can say that the number of homes in this sector has fallen by around 230,000 (5%) over the last 20 years.

But this definition does not tell us how much rent is being paid by those living there. Many will be rented at so-called ‘affordable’ levels – that is, 80% of market rent. The supply of homes available at ‘social rents’ – determined by a formula based on local house prices and earnings – has slowed substantially since 2000. In 2000/01, there were 27,000 new socially rented homes completed, rising to 39,500 in 2010/11, but falling to a little under 6,500 in 2018/19. The supply of homes at the lowest rents is clearly being squeezed – and the Affordable Housing Commission has made the case that we need to be building many more homes at genuinely affordable rents.

Unless more social housing is built, the decline in social renting will continue. But private renting into later life has serious financial implications for individuals as well as for the size of the housing benefit bill. And owner occupiers face risks too if they are not able to financially sustain the upkeep of their homes.

3. The standard of our homes

There are almost 4 million homes in England that endanger the health of the people who live there; more than half of these are lived in by someone aged 55 or over

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What do the charts show?

  • There are almost 4 million non-decent* homes in England today. More than half of these (2 million) are headed by someone aged 55 or over, and almost a third (1.3 million) by someone aged 65 or over. (It is worth nothing that, because the English Housing Survey only registers the age of one ‘household reference person’ (or ‘household head’), there are almost certainly more older people living in a non-decent home than reflected in the data).
  • The likelihood of living in a non-decent home is highest in the private rented sector.** Almost a third of the homes that are privately rented by someone aged 55 and older are non-decent.
  • But there are problems of non-decency in owner-occupied homes too: almost one in five homes owned by someone age 55 or older is non-decent. Unlike people in the private or social rental sector, owner occupiers are financially responsible for the upkeep of their homes and so the standard of their homes is at risk if their financial position deteriorates.

We also know that:

  • Although the number of non-decent homes is high, it is declining. In 2019, 17% or 4 million homes failed to meet the Decent Homes Standard, down from 7 million (33%) in 2008. This applies to people in every age category: for example, one-third of all households headed by someone aged 60 or over was non-decent in 2008 compared with fewer than one in five (18%) today.

The Decent Homes Standard was set down in 2006. It looks at how safe a home is, or whether it contains elements such as damp which might harm the health and wellbeing of the inhabitants. For a dwelling to be considered ‘decent’ under the Decent Homes Standard it must: 

  • meet the statutory minimum standard for housing (that is, it is free of category 1 hazards – a category 1 hazard is anything that causes a ‘serious and immediate risk’ to their occupants’ health and safety, and they are the most common reason for failing the decent homes standard)
  • provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort
  • be in a reasonable state of repair
  • have reasonably modern facilities and services

** Private rented dwellings have the highest proportion of non-decent homes (23%) and the social rented sector has the lowest (12%). Among owner-occupied homes, 16% failed to meet the Decent Homes Standard in 2019.

There are 2.3 million homes in England that are hazardous to the people who live in them

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What does the chart show?

  • There are 2.3 million homes containing a ‘category 1 hazard’ – something that causes a ‘serious and immediate risk’ to their occupants’ health and safety.
  • The most common hazards are places that could cause falls, and excess cold.

We also know that:

  • Almost 9,000 people died in England and Wales last year because their homes were too cold
  • The number of homes containing a category 1 hazard has more than halved since 2008 when they numbered 5 million.
  • Today, 12% of privately rented homes have at least one category 1 hazard, down from 31% in 2008. Over the same period, category 1 hazards have fallen from 15% to 5% in the social rented sector and from 23 to 10% in the owner-occupied sector.
  • According to analysis of English Housing Survey data by the Building Research Establishment (BRE):

    • The average cost of remedial work to fix homes with category 1 hazards would be £3,780 per home.
    • The total cost of remedial work would be £9.8 billion.
    • The full cost to society of leaving people living in poor housing is £18.5 billion a year.
    • But if all necessary remedial work were undertaken, NHS treatment costs alone would be repaid within seven to eight years.
  • BRE also conducted some modelling for the Centre for Ageing Better looking specifically at the remedial work to homes headed by someone aged 55 and over. This found that for one-third of these homes, the necessary work would cost less than £1,000.

Almost a quarter of people aged 75 and over who rent privately are at risk from category 1 hazards

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What do the charts show?

  • The likelihood of category 1 hazards, a poor state of repair, a lack of modern facilities and services and cold in their homes is higher for people of every age if they rent privately than for any other type of tenure.

    • Almost a quarter of privately rented homes headed by someone aged 75 or over have at least one category 1 hazard (something that causes a ‘serious and immediate risk’ to their health and safety).
    • Almost one in five privately rented homes headed by someone aged 65-74 are not warm enough.
  • Among owner-occupied homes, the likelihood of problems in the home tends to increase with age: the oldest people – aged 75 and over – who are home owners are more likely than younger home owners to be affected by a lack of modern facilities and services and by category 1 hazards in their homes. They are also the most likely to suffer from cold in their homes.

The poorest people are most likely to experience problems in their homes

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What do the charts show?

  • The poorest are much more likely than the wealthiest to experience problems in their homes, and the difference is much starker for people aged 50-69 than for people aged 70 and older.
  • For example, one in ten people aged 50-69 in relative poverty* suffer with excess condensation compared with 5% of those whose income means that they are not in relative poverty.
  • The poorest are also more likely to experience problems of cold and damp.

The poorest and the oldest are the most likely to suffer from cold in their homes and the poorest are most likely to suffer from damp. Cold and damp have significant and demonstrable impacts on health; in particular, they exacerbate chronic health conditions such as respiratory and cardiovascular disease from which older – and poorer – people are more likely to suffer. With a greater burden of ill-health to begin with, adding poor conditions in their homes simply creates a spiral of ill-health in the oldest and poorest people.  

* Equivalised income is a measure of household income that takes account of the differences in a household’s size and income. Here it is based on the income of the survey respondent and partner. In the UK, households with income below 60% of the median in that year are said to be in relative poverty.

The poorest people and those from a minority ethnic background are the most likely to be living in an overcrowded home

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What do the charts show?

  • When we look at overcrowding in households headed by people in their fifties and sixties we see a stark disparity by subjective income (how well off you feel you are): while just 2% of those living comfortably are in an overcrowded home, this rises to 17% of those who are finding it difficult.
  • In every age group, White British households are less likely to be overcrowded than ethnic minority households:

    • For example, people aged 45-54 are more than six times more likely to live in an overcrowded home if they are from an ethnic group other than White British; people aged 55-64 are seven times more likely.

We also know that:

  • 13% of homes privately rented by people of a minority ethnic background (of all ages) are overcrowded, compared with 3% of homes privately rented by White people. The corresponding proportions for social renters are 17% and 6%, respectively.
  • And the proportion of both privately rented and socially rented households that are overcrowded has been rising steadily over time. The proportion of privately rented homes that are overcrowded doubled from 3% in 1995/96 to 7% in 2019/20 (although there was a 1-percentage-point drop in the year since then). Today, 6% of all privately rented households and 8% of all socially rented households suffer overcrowding.

Living in overcrowded homes can result in the creation and exacerbation of several physical and mental health conditions. This has been starkly illustrated during the pandemic: of the 20 local authorities with the highest COVID-19 mortality rates, 14 have the highest percentage of households living in homes with fewer bedrooms than needed.

4. Accessibility and adaptations

Fewer than one in ten homes in England have the four key accessibility features that make them ‘visitable’

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What do the charts show?

  • Of the three tenure types, the social rented sector contains the highest proportion of homes with the four basic accessibility features (WC at entrance level; flush threshold; sufficiently wide doorways and circulation space; level access (no steps between gate/pavement and entrance door for a wheelchair to negotiate) that make them easy for anyone to visit.
  • One in five homes in the social rented sector that is headed by someone aged 75 or over is accessible.
  • Just 5% of privately rented homes headed by someone aged 55-74 have the four basic accessibility features, although this proportion more than doubles for people aged 75 or over in this sector.
  • Owner-occupied homes have the lowest rates of accessibility overall and the lowest rates for older people; just 4 to 5% of owner-occupied homes headed by someone aged 55 or over are accessible.
  • The proportion of homes with a WC at entry level increases with age to three-quarters of homes headed by a person aged 75 or over.
  • However, the proportion of homes with sufficiently wide doorways and circulation space decreases with age to just a quarter of homes headed by people aged 75 or over.

We also know that:

  • Only 9% of homes in England (of all tenure types) have all four accessibility features (an increase from 5% in 2009).  
  • 16% of socially rented homes have all four features, compared with 11% of privately rented homes and 6% of owner-occupied homes.

The vast majority of us live in mainstream housing but with fewer than one in ten homes meeting the basic standard of accessibility, it is clear that our housing is not suitable for us as we age. While specialised housing – such as sheltered accommodation or retirement villages – is one part of the solution, what we really need as we go through the age shift is more accessible housing which we can live in at all ages, and which we can grow older in.

It is clear that we need homes built to a standard that would make them adaptable and flexible enough for anyone to live in throughout their lifetimes. The government needs to set the higher accessible and adaptable M4 Category 2 (which stipulates that a new dwelling should provide reasonable provision for most people to access the dwelling and includes features that make it suitable for a range of potential occupants, including older people, individuals with reduced mobility and some wheelchair users) as the mandatory regulatory baseline for all new homes being built.

1 million homes do not have the adaptions they need

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What does the chart show?

  • There are currently 152,000 households lived in by a person aged 55-64, 213,000 by a person aged 65-74 and 405,000 by a person aged 75 or over, where the person has a long-standing health condition that requires adaptations but which they do not have.
  • There has been a large increase since 2014/15 in the number of homes where there is a person aged 75 or over who requires adaptations which they do not have.

We also know that:

  • In 2019/20, 8% of all households in England (1.9 million) had at least one person with a long-term physical or mental health condition that meant that adaptations were needed in their home. This has not changed since 2014/15.
  • 47% of households that required adaptations had all the adaptations they needed but 53% (1 million) did not. This represented an increase since 2014/15 when 45% (864,000) of households lacked one or more adaptations that they needed.

Hand and grab rails are the adaptations most commonly needed in our homes

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What does the chart show?

  • The adaptations that are most commonly needed by people of every age are hand or grab rails, showering aids, ramps and stairlifts.
  • In almost half (45%) of homes lived in by someone aged 75 or over that need adapting, hand or grab rails are needed to make the kitchen or bathroom easier to use.

We also know that:

  • 10% of homes contain at least one ‘adaptation’ – such as grab rails or ramps. This proportion has not shifted much since 2009.
  • In a previous survey, we found that cost is the reason most commonly cited by people aged 50 and over for not having made the changes they need to their homes: 70% of 50-59 year olds, 53% of 60-69 year olds and 56% of people aged 70 or over said this.
  • The upheaval it would cause was also cited frequently, especially among the over 70s (42%), as was the challenge of finding trusted tradespeople (29%).

There is clearly a market for homes that are either adapted, or adaptable. Nearly three-quarters of people we polled in 2019 agreed that homes should, as standard, be built to be suitable for people of all ages and with all sorts of access needs. And it need not be expensive for housebuilders: in 2014, providing enhanced accessibility and adaptability to a new three-bedroom semi-detached house was estimated to add just an extra £521 in building costs. The government needs to move ahead with implementing M4 Category 2 as the mandatory minimum adaptability and accessibility standard for all new homes as soon as possible following its consultation.

Over £500 million was allocated to pay for adaptations to homes in England in 2020/21, through the Disabled Facilities Grant

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  • People can apply to their local authority for a grant to adapt their home, in ways that will allow them to live independently in their own home, through the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG).
  • The first grants were made in 1990. The programme received a boost in the 2015 Spending Review, when the government pledged to allocate £500 million a year to the scheme by 2019/20.

What does the chart show?

  • Up to 2018/19, the number of completed DFGs has risen by 35%, and now stands at an average of almost 170 a year per local authority. The vast majority – 65% in 2016/17 – are claimed by people aged 60 or over.

There are around 1 million home owners aged 55 and over living in poverty and cost is one of the main barriers to people making the necessary changes to their home. Clearly, the DFG is crucial to allow those with less money to make their home safe and suitable for them.

Maintaining existing spend on DFG will not be sufficient to meet demand, according to analysis from the Building Research Establishment in 2011. We also know that many local areas don’t have the capacity and resources to deliver home adaptations quickly. To spend the DFG capital funding efficiently and effectively, local authorities need sufficient resource funding to deliver it – so they can pay for administrators and contractors to actually make the adaptations happen.

The pipeline of new accessible homes varies markedly across the country

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  • Between July and October 2020, Habinteg assessed all 324 local plans from local planning authorities across England.
  • They found that 48% (or 154) local planning authorities in England now stipulate that some proportion of new homes must be built to an accessible standard (up from 43% (or 138) in 2019).
  • But this means that more than half (170) of all local plans have no requirements for any accessible housing standard.
  • Almost one-third (31.5%) of new homes to be built in England between 2020 and 2030 will be built to either Building Regulations M4 optional access standards or the older Lifetime Homes or wheelchair housing standard which means that more than two-thirds (68.5%) of all new homes built in the coming decade will not be required to meet any accessible housing standard.

What do the charts show?

  • Regional variations are marked: while 33% of all new homes in the South East will meet M4 optional access standards (the highest proportion in the country), the West Midlands has no local plans to meet either of the 2015 optional access standards and still had no planning requirement to build any homes suitable for wheelchair users.
  • In London, there has been a 14% drop in the number of homes planned to an accessible standard from 88% in 2019 to 74% in 2020.
The State of Ageing 2022

Summary: The State of Ageing 2022

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