A new research report by the national housing charity Threshold and ALONE has found that a quarter of older renters expect to remain in the private rental sector for life, as they felt no other accommodation options were available to them.
Launched today the Double Deficit: Older and Ageing Persons in the Irish Private Rental Sector report sets out findings of considerable deficits in the private rental sector to meet the needs of older renters in Ireland.
Research was formed from interviews with representative older renters in the private rental sector and an analysis of the RTB dataset. It was found that 42% of participants experience high stress levels in the private rental sector associated with the insecurity of their accommodation, citing that this stress was impacting all aspects of their lives.
The substantial cost of renting in the private rental sector was referenced among participants, with over half of interviewees in receipt of HAP (Housing Assistance Payment). While this was essential to their capacity to afford accommodation, some experienced a shortfall in the HAP payment covering the cost of their rent. 17% of interviewees noted landlord reluctance, and in some cases – refusal to accept HAP.
Extremely high levels of vulnerabilities were noted in the report findings. Exposures related to insecure accommodation were aggravated by other areas of concern, such as older age profiles, illness and health conditions, family composition and low income.
While it is acknowledged that the State is planning for the economic impacts of a population growing older, similar evidence-informed planning appears absent in respect of age-appropriate accommodation for growing numbers of older people. This study contends that, in the context of Ireland’s current housing crisis, the absence of data and planning for older people’s accommodation is an immediate problem that require an urgent, strategic response at national and local levels.
Older renters are more likely to be living ALONE and renting for longer periods than their younger counterparts in the sector. They are also more likely to be in receipt of rental assistance. Those aged 65+ and renting from a private landlord are likely to be spending more than 35% of their disposable income on rent (CSO 2021).
Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Darragh O’Brien, said of the report: “I very much welcome this joint research that ALONE and Threshold have undertaken, as it helps inform our policies, and target our housing actions further. Housing for All, the government’s national strategy, mandates Local Authorities to develop and submit housing action plans for each of their local authority areas. These plans must include provision for age friendly housing, both social and private and ensures that housing provision appropriate to the needs of older people will be delivered, matching the scale and extent of housing demand. Housing for All is backed by more than €4 billion in funding ensuring we can meet and even exceed the objectives of the Plan. As people enter the so called ‘golden years’ of their lives we don’t want them to suffer worry and stress if they are renting, we want them to have options. Rapidly increasing the supply of new homes, of all types, will provide those options.”
Housing Policy Analyst, Lorcan Sirr, stated: “As renting in the private sector becomes a larger component of our housing system – for good or ill – this report demonstrates that there can be no one-size fits all approach to renting in Ireland. Older people are some of the most vulnerable in Ireland, and renting is one of the leat secure tenures to live in. Costs, a lack of security and a dearth of data have all been rightly identified as serious issues for older people in the rental sector. The lessons learned, however, can be applied to a broader spectrum of society, which makes this report an incredibly valuable addition to the debates on tenure, housing, ownership and affordability.”
CEO of ALONE, Seán Moynihan, said: “The report highlights what we have seen building and have been campaigning on for 10 years. This evidence now further shows the housing needs of older people and proves the effect of no security of tenure for older people in the rental sector. Older people in private rented accommodation have lower standards of living and have poorer health & wellbeing outcomes.”
“We need to plan and build for this increasing amount of people, before it is too late, for whom renting is their only housing option. This report highlights the areas that we need to focus on now, including ring fencing social housing, in line with demand, specifically for older people to meet this need now and in the near future. The alternative is that the current system will lead to large levels homelessness and poor housing conditions in old age,” he concluded.
Ann-Marie O’Reilly, National Advocacy Manager at Threshold commented on the findings of the report, stating: “Older renters make up a strong portion of national renters in the private sector, with 17% of renters in older demographics. The findings in this report indicate a poor outlook for older and ageing renters across Ireland, and issues remain at large regarding security of tenure and affordability. It is critical that the recommendations provided in this report are taken into account and the private rental sector becomes a viable and sustainable option of housing for older renters in the coming years.”
Co-author of the report, Neil Haran, said: “This study reveals considerable challenges associated with the State’s reliance on the private rental sector to accommodate many of its citizens. It also reveals that older renters in private rental are placed at a disproportionate disadvantage in the market, contributing to high levels of stress, vulnerability and a lack of predictability. But of equal concern is the absence of a data-informed approach to planning for the accommodation of a rapidly growing ageing cohort. There is a clear need for safeguards to improve the position of older people in the private rental sector; for increased investment in social and age-friendly housing, with supports, as well as a distinct need to commit to gathering age-related, tenure-specific data to aid effective planning.”
The research undertaken be Neil Haran and Paul Butler of Nexus Europe with Joe Finnerty of University College Cork, is the first of its kind in Ireland and provides experiential insights into the private rental sector for old and ageing renters.
Following the research process, both Threshold and ALONE provided twelve key recommendations to ensure the private rental sector becomes an appropriate housing option for older and ageing renters. These recommendations, as well as recommendations for the provision of alternative forms of housing to meet people’s needs as they age, include:
- Ensuring adequacy of the State Pension.
- Increase ring-fencing of social housing for older people.
- Ensuring higher compliance levels with Accommodation Quality Standards in the private rental sector.
- Developing, investing in and evaluating promised housing models inclusive of supports, particularly via Approved Housing Bodies.
A crucial recommendation set out in the report details the need to establish a distinct unit to address the housing needs of older people across the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the Department of Health.
Ann-Marie O’Reilly of Threshold commented on this recommendation, adding that there is “no time to delay on implementing these measures. The current population projections for the coming years set out a larger older demographic, and with the demand for housing already at record levels, we need to ensure that secure accommodation options are available for older generations.”
The Double Deficit: Older and Ageing Persons in the Irish Private Rental Sector report is available on both Threshold and ALONE websites.