I must admit, when I was first getting involved in the early phases of our renting in later life analysis some months back, I hadn’t quite appreciated what an eye-opening experience it would be!
Renting in later life seems to touch on almost all aspects of life, and some of the analytical insights we developed in the process I found truly surprising. On top of this, being a Data and Analytics newbie at the time, I learnt so much about the people working for Essex County Council, as well as our organisational priorities. In the process, I also learnt some new nifty analysis techniques that I think could really expand the kinds of questions that the Data and Analytics team can answer in the future.
But if you’re here just for the insight I won’t hesitate any longer and I’ll get straight to it (although I do hope you’ll stick around to read the rest).
To set the scene, for those living in later life now – which for analysis purposes is defined as households aged 65 plus – renting is currently quite uncommon. In fact, homeownership is effectively at historic highs. But this misses the bigger picture: for households aged 45-64, homeownership rates have fallen precipitously in the last 10 years or so, replaced almost entirely by private renting. All this means that if these trends continue, we can expect to see private renting in later life become far more common. However, homeownership amongst the highest earners has stayed stable in the last 10 years whereas the decrease has been most stark for the lowest earners. All of this suggests that financial constraints are what is driving increases in renting for those near to ‘later life’.
One key challenge that we faced in this analysis was a lack of any detailed housing stock data on private renters and owner-occupants. However, we were able to use Energy Performance Certificate data to gain insight on the housing quality of Essex residents in later life across all the tenure types.
We found that social renters had the best quality housing, both in terms of energy efficiency and overall quality, but that private renters had the worst. Importantly, living in poor quality and/or energy inefficient home puts you more at risk of accidents and injuries as well as respiratory and cardiovascular issues. It also increases your maintenance costs and fuel bills and, as I am sure you are already aware, this is particularly significant as households are facing a cost-of-living crisis.
Social renters were also found to have the smallest homes compared to private renters and owner occupants, reducing fuel bills. However, this insight did come as a bit of a surprise to our housing colleagues, challenging their assumptions about expected high levels of demand from social renters to downsize
Separately from the question of housing quality, we also identified a potentially important link between renting in later life and adult social care services. In a nutshell, renters are more likely to relocate for care in later life than homeowners and are also more likely to receive subsidised care. So, assuming we do see more renters in later life in the future, this has the potential to change the type of demand adult social care receive and to increase the financial burden on adult social care. This part of our analysis is still in its infancy, so do keep an eye out for our future work where we will be quantifying the exact impact we might see!
I count myself lucky to have worked alongside such engaged stakeholders throughout this project’s lifecycle. As someone new to ECC, it was particularly helpful that I could draw upon their housing expertise. Collaborating with housing colleagues helped us identify potential useful data sources and added some much-needed context, which really improved the scope and quality of the project. In fact, it almost feels like I have been on an intensive course in housing (although there is still so much to learn!). Having such data literate stakeholders also meant we could confidently deliver detailed insight all in the knowledge they would take it on board and know how to use it.
So, there you have it, a little window into the life of a new(ish) Junior Analyst in the Data and Analytics team here at ECC. If you found the insight interesting and are interested in reading more, I have included three links to the work discussed in this blog at the bottom, available on the Open Data site, and keep an eye out for our upcoming work!