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UK baby boomers cut back on food, borrow from kids to pay rent

by Astrid Zweynert | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 1 May 2018 17:29 GMT

People over 50 are finding it increasingly harder to meet housing costs

By Astrid Zweynert

LONDON, May 1 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Almost half a million baby boomers in Britain are forced to take "drastic measures" to cover their rent, in a sign that people over 50 are finding it increasingly harder to meet housing costs, researchers have found.

A survey by the National Housing Federation (NHF) said last year more than 40 percent of private renters in England aged 50 or above had to borrow from their children, take out loans or cut down on food and heating to pay their rent.

"There is a huge amount of inequality amongst this age group," said NHF chief executive David Orr.

"Unfortunately the wealthier majority have hidden the reality of hundreds of thousands of people who have never been able to afford a house and are now being failed by the broken housing market."

Britain is experiencing a housing crisis as homebuilding has not kept pace with demand, driving up property prices, with rents rising faster than wages and homelessness soaring.

Baby boomers - or people born between the mid-1940s and mid-1960s - are often considered to be shielded from the effects as the majority of them own homes outright, the NHF, which represents housing associations and social landlords, said.

But over the past 10 years, British home ownership has changed.

A record 1.13 million people aged 50 and over are renting from private landlords now, compared to 651,000 a decade ago, and many are struggling with rising costs and without supportive adaptations, such as handrails and ramps, the NHF said.

At least 17 percent of those surveyed had to cut down on food and heating, and about 10 percent were forced to take out a loan, use an overdraft or a credit card to pay the rent, the survey published this week showed.

More than one in 10 private renters have borrowed money from family and friends, while 3 percent have asked their children for financial help.

As social housing stock in England has decreased, along with government funding for it, many over 50s have been forced to rent from the private sector, where rates are rising fastest and tenancy contracts are the most insecure.

The rising number of older people in the private rented sector could more than double the housing benefit bill for pensioners by 2060 to 16 billion pounds ($22 billion) from 6 billion pounds at present, NHF said.

The NHF called for more social housing construction and said the government should ensure longer, more secure tenancies for people in the private rented sector.

The housing ministry was not immediately available for comment.

($1 = 0.7343 pounds)

(Reporting by Astrid Zweynert @azweynert, Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org and http://www.thisisplace.org)

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