Please note: This topic has been prioritised for further research.
The private rented sector houses a diverse range of households, with a wide range of needs from their housing. It can provide flexibility for people with changing accommodation needs or who need to move house frequently for work reasons or such like. However, it can sometimes be insecure – or perceived to be insecure – and has additional up-front costs as well as rents, which may be problematic for tenants at the lower end of the market (for example finding money for deposits/bond, providing several weeks’ rent in advance to secure a tenancy, or paying agency fees which may need to be paid each time a tenancy is renewed).
Privately rented housing is the fastest growing sector in the housing market. As well as being the only housing option available for those who cannot afford to buy their own home but are not in need of social housing assistance, it is now possible for local authorities in Wales to discharge their homelessness duties within the private sector.
The private rented sector accounts for about 17% of the housing stock across Conwy County Borough and Denbighshire – about 17,000 dwellings in total. This is well above the Welsh average of 14%. Conwy County Borough in particular has a high reliance on the private rented sector in its housing stock. The only areas in Wales with higher proportions of private rented housing are Cardiff and Ceredigion, which have large student populations and would therefore expect to see such a pattern.
Alongside this the supply of private rented homes has been buoyed by the growth of the small scale buy-to-let landlord, with many using rental properties as an alternative to a pension fund.
Privately rented housing is regulated, in terms of compliance with housing standards, health and safety and in terms of landlords and agents being ‘fit and proper’ through Rent Smart Wales.
Office for National Statistics research has identified three groups most likely to have the poorest personal well-being. These include unemployed or inactive renters with self-reported health problems or a disability and employed renters with self-reported health problems or a disability.
The private rented sector has grown significantly over the last three decades, growing from a total of about 9,500 dwellings in 1991 to an estimated 17,000 by 2020 – an increase of 79%.
The owner occupied housing sector has seen proportionately much slower growth (23%) in the same period. Social housing growth was more or less stagnant in the area, and has reduced nationally. Media reports in early 2020 reported that home ownership is, nationally, at its lowest level for 30 years, especially amongst young adults.
There are a number of reasons for the rapid growth of private renting, and a number of reasons for expecting it to continue: social change as people co-habit later in life and renting and house-sharing become ever more socially acceptable; high house prices and lack of availability of mortgage credit; the use of the sector by local authorities to house those in housing need or who are homeless; and, restricted access and long waiting lists for social housing. The pressure on the private rented sector as the housing market has slowed and house building rates have dropped has been particularly noticeable.
There are concerns that the trend towards more private renting coupled with increased pressures on the affordability of owner occupation may mean that a higher proportion of future generations find themselves in the private rented housing sector in old age. A 2020 study by the Office for National Statistics found that:
after paying housing costs, older people in rented accommodation have lower incomes than homeowners and privately renting households are more likely to be in fuel poverty than homeowners.
almost a third of privately rented properties and one in five properties owned outright and lived in by older people are classified as non-decent overall, as measured against the Decent Homes Standard.
people aged 60 to 69 years living in the private rented sector are more likely to report bad general health than homeowners; differences in health above age 70 years are less pronounced as health is more likely to worsen for all at later ages.
older people living in rented accommodation are far less likely to have moved home recently than younger people, suggesting that stability becomes more important with age.
Though it is currently too soon to know what the long-term impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic may be, we can speculate that there may be changes in some of the societal structures and behaviours that affect this issue. These include:
the immediate impacts on housing security that may arise for households that have seen reductions in income/loss of employment due to the pandemic as the moratoria on landlord repossession actions and other temporary housing support measures are withdrawn. There may also be additional stresses associated with delays in the courts hearing cases.
 Living longer: implications of housing tenure in later life, Office for National Statistics, March 2020
Housing support for young people was discussed at length by people; some of whom feel that rental accommodation is becoming unaffordable. They want to see improved access to good quality affordable housing, including social housing. Redevelopment of empty properties, including repurposing spaces that are no longer used (e.g. office space, dwellings above shops), in place of building new homes could be an opportunity. This could also mitigate people’s concerns that the space between towns and villages is reducing as new housing developments are built.
Homelessness is seen as a factor in deprivation and so too housing quality. Poor housing has been highlighted by people as having a causal relationship with lower life expectancy.
Who is more likely to be in rented accommodation? It is likely to be young people, but also people experiencing disadvantage. Office for National Statistics research has identified three groups most likely to have the poorest personal well-being, and it suggests interventions should be targeted towards these groups:
Unemployed or inactive renters with self-reported health problems or a disability
Employed renters with self-reported health problems or a disability
Retired homeowners with self-reported health problems or a disability
To what extent are the well-being needs of these groups being met?
Furthermore, to what extent does holiday lets and second homes affect the private rented sector?
This topic does not yet give due consideration to the climate and ecological change needed (mitigation and adaptation).
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