Housing, older people and the cost-of-living crisis

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2023 National Retired Members Conference
9 June 2023
Carried as Amended

There are almost 11 million people aged 65 and over in the UK which represents nearly 20% of the total population. Yet the government continues to ignore the plight of many pensioners and to place the interests of developers and the private sector housing providers before the housing needs of older people. Many pensioners facing debt because of mortgages and rents that have doubled combined with high energy costs.

The situation for pensioners in the rented sector is bleak with a severe lack of social housing available to rent and private landlords selling-up because of increased mortgage rates or charging higher rents in many cases for substandard and poorly maintained buildings. These are a health hazard resulting in additional and unnecessary costs to the NHS from cold related illnesses and falls. Right to buy has substantially reduced the availability of social housing and will continue to do so in the future.

There are fewer specialist sheltered / supported homes available, existing housing stock is poorly insulated and fails to meet the needs of an ageing population. Many pensioners face poverty, insecurity and an uncertain future in sub-standard private rented accommodation.

Current research suggests that increasingly older people are stepping off the property ladder and choosing to rent in the hope that it will give greater flexibility. For others there is no choice and the range of property types together with the quality and standard of accommodation is likely to be limited depending on financial circumstances. Many pensioners who are “house rich, cash poor” have needed to free up their assets in the cost-of-living crisis to cover living costs. Others have never been able to afford to buy a home.

Conference therefore calls on the National Retired Members Committee to liaise with the National Executive Council, Labour Link, the National Pensioners Convention, Scottish Pensioners Forum, Age UK, the Trades Union Congress, the Scottish Trades Union Congress and other relevant organisations to:

1)Mount a campaign to urge local authorities, housing associations and the Government to make a genuine commitment to building more accessible, secure and appropriate housing for older people.

2)Encourage them to renovate, insulate and future proof existing housing stock including, introducing energy efficient savings equipment e.g. solar panel

3)End the right to buy and re-introduction of rent controls

4)Call upon UNISON branches and regions to assist in the campaign.