Baroness Grender: Give older people who rent greater security
If the Tories fail to prepare for this growing phenomenon, it will be a failure to care for our future, older, generation, says Baroness Grender.
Whenever we talk about the housing crisis and lack of affordable housing, we often think of ‘generation rent’. However, a new and growing phenomenon that is often ignored is the number of older people renting in the private sector.
Without a huge injection of investment in social housing – the obvious answer to most housing questions which currently seems to elude the Conservative Government – the situation is going to get much worse.
In just over 20 years, a third of people over 60 will be privately renting. The number of people aged over 60 and accepted as homeless has increased by 40 per cent in the last five years. When older people do rent, their proportion of income spent on their housing is more than 40 per cent of their income, compared to the 14 per cent of income for owner occupiers. These statistics make clear that the housing crisis is not just an affliction burdening the young.
If these statistics weren’t bad enough, it is also apparent older renters are also less secure and are more likely to be forced to move. According to Shelter almost 30 per cent of private renters aged 65 to 74 were forced to move by being served notice in 2016/17. The upheaval that comes with moving is something we all can recognise, but the stress of having this experience later in life should not be underestimated.
Equally when considering the income and security issues, plus the dangers to an older person concerning risks to their home, it paints a worrying picture. Hazards in a home are much more significant to an older tenant. For example, heating problems for an older person can be life threatening, whilst mould and damp can make chronic health conditions worse. Health risks and hazards always pose a greater threat to the more vulnerable in our society; both the young and the old. Moreover, we cannot forget that often there is the need to adjust the property around the person if the tenant becomes less mobile. How many landlords in the private rented sector are prepared to do that?
The Residential Landlords Association has recognised this problem. The Local Housing Allowance was introduced in 2008, with many landlords reporting problems as the freeze on its value results in a shortfall in rent of as much as £100 for a quarter of them. The landlords have now called for this freeze to be ended in order to support low income older tenants. This demonstrates the level of priority they believe the Government should afford older tenants.
The Liberal Democrats believe that first and foremost the answer is an ambitious programme to build more social housing. But this will not take place overnight. Until that happens, we are clear that the Conservatives must act to give older people who rent greater security. There must be reform to enact longer leases, a wholescale transformation of our eviction laws and a change to a permanent right to stay, similar to what has recently been introduced last year in Scotland.
Liberal Democrats demand better for the future generation of older renters. If the Tories fail to prepare for this growing phenomenon, it will be a failure to care for our future, older, generation.
Baroness Grender is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.