02 May 2018

Why are more over-65s moving into rented housing?

People usually assume that housing in the UK today is divided along generational lines: young people are renting while trying to save for a deposit; middle-aged people have bought a home but are still paying off the mortgage; while the over-65s are the lucky ones, debt-free and owning their homes outright.

While this snapshot is a pretty accurate portrayal, new indicators show that a growing number of people over the age of 65 are now in rented accommodation. The latest English Housing Survey 2016-17 shows that almost 1.5 million aged over 65 are renting private and public housing, reflecting a growing long-term trend.

Delving deeper into the data, the  (This link will open in a new window)Centre for Ageing Better says that there are now "414,000 older people privately renting, a jump from 254,000 in 2007 – supporting estimates that suggest that by 2040 a third of those aged over 60 could be living in private rented accommodation."

Why are more elderly people renting?

Britain has an ageing population so the number of elderly home owners and renters will rise proportionately, but Dr Rachael Docking, senior evidence manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, believes that many elderly people are opting to rent.

“We largely think the rental market is changing partly through choice, in that some older people are choosing to have the flexibility that private renting can bring and they want to release funds where possible," she says.

People of retirement age often downsize. By cleverly investing the proceeds of their home sale they may find that they have enough money to rent a home and enjoy additional luxuries such as holidays and leisure club memberships. Or they may choose to gift some of the proceeds to their children or grandchildren. Renting also means leaving the stress and expense of maintaining a home to a landlord.

Not everyone chooses to rent though, adds Docking. “For a lot of people it is about lack of choice. Some have never made it onto the housing ladder or, for reasons such as a relationship breakdown, find themselves back in the rental market.

“With increased housing costs, low availability of quality housing and homes that are often not built to be suitable for people in later life, there is a lack of choice for good quality housing for older people."

What rental options are there for over-65s?

Some over-65s will be eligible for social housing and all over 65s can rent from the private rental market, but some properties may be better suited to the needs of the elderly than others. A third-floor apartment with no lift may not be a good long-term option, for example. For added security it's also advisable that those who don't want to move again only take a property let on an assured lifetime tenancy, which means that they can remain in it for life.

Co-housing in old age

For those looking for a more social but independent option, co-housing could be the answer. It might be something we associate with students or young professionals, but senior co-housing is a new way of living that some people are experimenting with in the UK.

The Older Women's Co-housing community, for example, is a body of women over 50 who live in a group of homes in North London, which they either rent or own, but manage jointly. Although they have their own kitchens, they come together regularly to cook and eat meals and enjoy communal and social activities such as yoga. 

This model creates communities that look out for each other and significantly reduces the feeling of loneliness and isolation that older people can feel when living alone.

Over-65s can still get a mortgage

For over-65s who are planning to buy, there are options when it comes to taking out a mortgage. You could be in work, retired, or claiming a pension but still employed full or part time. What’s available will depend on what requirements you have, your income and whether the lender has an upper age limit on what you can borrow.

Find out more about applying for a mortgage later in life.

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