NHF boss calls for long-term investment in social housing, as older people are being left without affordable housing options

New research by the National Housing Federation (NHF) has revealed more than 866,000 people over the age of 55 are living in private rented sector (PRS) accommodation, with over half of older private renters (52%) stating they want to retire but can’t due to housing costs. 

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NHF chief executive Kate Henderson has urged the government to invest in social housing, as increasing numbers of older people are ending up in poor quality, expensive homes

The survey found that 48% of older private renters worry about getting into debt as a result of high housing costs and other living expenses, while one in four people who have retired have considered going back to work due to housing costs.

Among people aged 55 to 64, the number of households living in PRS has more than doubled since 2010/11, with 485,012 people in this age group renting privately in 2020/21.

In the previous decade, 230,370 people in the 55 to 64 age group were living in PRS homes.

Out of the 866,870 people living in PRS, over 350,000 are in full or part-time work. While the majority of people who are over 65 and in PRS are retired, the 55-64 group is mostly in work.

The total number of people aged 55+ in full-time work and living in PRS is 257,996, while almost 110,000 older people in PRS work part-time.

The NHF commissioned YouGov to carry out a study exploring the impact of living in the PRS on older renters.

YouGov conducted an online poll with a sample of 2,024 older renters aged over 55 between 6th October and 17th October 2023. The participants were evenly split into two age groups - 55-64 (51%) and 65+ (49%).

The NHF research found that 77% of older tenants had not been forced to leave their current or previous home either because their landlord asked them to, or due to rent hikes.

However, the report notes that this means 23% of older private renters have had to move due to rent increases or because their landlord asked them to.

The NHF stated that issues relating to rent increases and landlords vacating properties could therefore affect nearly 200,000 over-55 households.

Kate Henderson, chief executive at the National Housing Federation, said: “Today’s report shows that the chronic lack of social housing is now impacting our aging population in devastating ways. 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. This is the result of successive governments failing to plan for affordable homes over the long term. There is no time to lose. 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.”