Some years ago Care & Repair England published the report ‘A Perfect Storm: An ageing population, low income home ownership, and decay of older housing’ to draw attention to the potential implications of the radical shift from renting to owning amongst lower income groups, particularly when those lower income people retired on small pensions.
The report analysed housing stock condition, demographic and tenure trends alongside housing related policy response.
A similar conclusion was reached to that of the House of Lords Inquiry Ready for Ageing? i.e. that the policy response was woefully inadequate.
Last week’s publication of the latest English Housing Survey Headline report 2016-17 data, revealed that for the first time in more than a decade the number of non-decent homes in the owner occupied sector has increased, rising from 2,694,000 in 2015 to 2,912,000 in 2016, nearly a fifth of the private sector stock.
As our report demonstrated (Off the Radar), the majority of those living in non-decent owner occupied homes are older people, particularly those with disability or long term health conditions.
Whilst one has to be cautious about drawing conclusions from a relatively small change, taken with other emerging data about indications of falling life expectancy in poor areas and low income pensioners, this does accord with the difficulties of finding the money for essential home repairs reported by home improvement agencies and others.
The current housing media focus is understandably on the dire situation of homeless people, families living in temporary accommodation and the scandal of a whole generation locked into expensive, poor standard private sector rented property.
However, this is not a good reason to totally ignore the housing and financial difficulties faced by low income older people.
Not everyone over retirement age is living on a high pension in a house in the south east worth millions. We must not lose sight of those who are ‘just about managing’ – or close to not managing.
Failure to make the connection between housing disrepair and health is not only costly to the NHS, but has potentially dire consequences for individual older people.
We have to somehow make the case afresh for the practical, preventative housing help that home improvement agencies and handyperson services can offer, but which seem to be disappearing at a rate of knots