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Baby boomers borrowing from friends and family to pay rent, reveals research

Words: Laura Edgar
Older people struggling in the private rented sector / iStock-892095298

Almost 500,000 private renters aged 50 and over made ‘drastic’ decisions to cover their rent, including borrowing money from their own children, family and friends, according to the National Housing Federation (NHF).

A quarter of those aged 50 and over – 52,000 people – who moved house in the past three years were forced to do so against their will, the representative for housing associations explained. Others are living in “unsuitable” housing, leaving them, among other things, unable to leave their homes independently.

It is considered that baby boomers are not affected by the housing crisis because the majority own their own home, but the NHF research, which includes a YouGov poll of 3,935 people aged 50 and over in England, suggests otherwise.

It says that 1.13 million people aged over 50 are renting from private landlords today, with many struggling with rising costs and inappropriate conditions. In comparison, 651,000 aged 50 and over lived in private rented accommodation 10 years ago.

Research stats for those aged 50 and over who are renting:

  • 12 per cent (around 130,000) have borrowed money from family and friends.
  • 3 per cent (around 40,000) have borrowed from their own children.
  • 17 per cent have had to cut down on food and heating.
  • 10 per cent have had to take out a loan, use their overdraft or a credit.

In England, private rents grew by 21 per cent between 2011 and 2017, the NHF said, while a third older private renters are living below the poverty line after they’ve paid their rent, according to research by Independent Age (pdf).

A Resolution Foundation report, published earlier in April, suggested that the rising number of older people in the private rented sector could more than double the housing benefit bill for pensioners by 2060, from £6 billion today to £16 billion.

David Orr, chief executive of the NFH, said: “We often hear that young people bear the brunt of the housing crisis but today’s (30 April) report reveals a shocking number of hidden baby boomers who are struggling just as much, if not more. There is a huge amount of inequality amongst this age group and unfortunately the wealthier majority have hidden the reality of hundreds of thousands of people who have never been able to afford a house, and are now being failed by the broken housing market.”

Orr said this is having a “truly shattering” impact on older people’s lives. It is costing the government “huge” amounts in housing benefit and on the NHS.

“These figures are only going to grow. This must be a wake-up call to the government that more money for building social housing, and especially housing that is fit for retirement, is not only desperately needed but makes financial sense.”

The NHF wants the government to put more money directly into the building of social housing, as well as ensure that there is long-term funding for support and sheltered housing for people who need extra support in their home.

Additionally, it wants longer and more secure tenancies for people in the private rented sector.

* The total sample size of the YouGov poll was 9,050 adults, 3,936 of whom were adults aged 50 and over who live in England.

Image credit | iStock