The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Housing and Care for Older People has sharply criticised the PRS as being ill-equipped to cater for elderly and vulnerable tenants.
It says over 630,000 households could be forced out of their privately rented homes because they can’t afford the rent, and forecasts that the number of older disabled households living in unfit and unsuitable private rented accommodation could leap from 56,000 to almost 250,000 by 2050.
“We need action now to avoid sleepwalking into a situation where hundreds of thousands of older people will find themselves in insecure tenancies they cannot afford, fearing eviction and potentially even homelessness – the social and economic costs of this would be enormous, Housing Benefit costs would skyrocket” says the APPG’s chairman Lord Best - who is also chairing the Regulation of Property Agents working group expected to report shortly on mandatory training and qualification for lettings and estate agents.
“We urgently need a national strategy for renting in later life. This must include a plan to build more low-cost rented homes, and a programme of investment in care and support to prevent a housing catastrophe for the pensioners of the future” he says.
The group says the number of pensioners in the private rented sector could treble to 1.5m by the middle of the century and warns that the current supply of social homes at an affordable rent - growing by 2,000 to 3,000 units a year - is “woefully inadequate” and faces demand that may be 10 times that high in future.
The report also claims that the number of older disabled households currently in unfit and unsuitable private rented accommodation is 56,000 and could hit 188,000 in 20 years’ time and to 236,500 in 30 years’ time.
While Lord Best believes social housing is the largest solution to the problems of supply and suitability, the report also makes a series of critical observations about the current private rental sector.
- rents pitched at working people can become unaffordable when those individuals retire or have to stop work;
- the short-term nature of tenancies is unsettling for older tenants;
- too many private properties are in a “non-decent” condition, primarily because of cold and damp, with older tenants being disproportionately affected;
- adaptations for tenants with disabilities are difficult to obtain in the private rental sector.
“The problem with the private rented sector is that people think it is the solution. It isn’t. Insecure tenancies and expensive rents mean that very often it is not a suitable tenure for older people” says the report.