A 40% variance in the average cost of social and private rents in the North East is leaving the region’s older private renters struggling to afford the basic essentials, according to new research by the National Housing Federation (NHF).

The study revealed that more than two-fifths (42%) of older private renters (55+) in England say they regularly struggle to afford basic living costs like buying food, heating their homes or paying for clothes.

And with data from northern housing association Karbon Homes showing a  difference of £145 a month between the average social rents for its homes for residents over 55 and the estimated market rent equivalent, the figures unveil the stark economic and social reality faced by a growing number of older people living in privately rented homes across the region, the NHF says.

As well as being unable to afford the basic essentials, the polling revealed:

  • Nearly half (48%) of older private renters worry about getting into debt due to their housing and other living costs being too high. This could affect 416,098 households across England
  • Almost half (49%) of retired older (55+) private renters say their quality of life is severely impacted by their housing costs. This could affect 193,898 people
  • Over half (52%) of older private renters, who are still working, want to retire but can’t currently afford to due to their housing costs. This equates to 191,331 people.

Charlotte Carpenter, Executive Director of Growth and Business Development at Karbon Homes, said: “We’re facing a chronic shortage of social housing in this country and findings like these, which show a devastating correlation between the lack of affordable, secure social housing in our region and the health and wellbeing of our older residents, highlights the impact that decades of underinvestment in social housing and short-term, unimpactful approaches to housing policy by successive governments have had.

“We need to fundamentally change the way social housing is financed, with much higher grant investment by the government to support the building of truly affordable homes on the scale that is needed.”

Charlotte jointly chairs the NHF’s Meeting Housing Need group, which has called for a long-term plan for housing, highlighting the negative consequences of neglecting the housing crisis and setting out a hopeful vision for what a different approach to housing could look like.

Kate Henderson, NHF Chief Executive, said: “Today’s report shows that the chronic lack of social housing is now impacting our aging population in devastating ways and exemplifies how broken our housing system has become, that the very people that social housing exists to support – the poorest and most vulnerable in our society – are now living in the least secure, poorest quality and most expensive homes in the private rented sector.

“This is the result of successive governments failing to plan for affordable homes over the long term. As we head towards the next election, the National Housing Federation is urging all political parties to put an end to decades of short-term, inadequate housing policy decisions and commit to a national long-term plan that prioritises building social housing.”