Scottish Government Equality Outcomes: Age Evidence Review

This evidence review was prepared to support the production of the Scottish Government's Equality Outcomes, with regard to age.

6 Housing

6.1 This section covers the evidence on housing tenure, homelessness, fuel poverty, house condition, housing for older people, and neighbourhoods.


6.2 Older people are much more likely to own their homes than younger people[59], with the trend being that an increasing proportion of those aged 65 and over live in owner-occupied housing. In 2010, 70% of all households where the highest income householder is aged 65 were owner occupied compared with 53% in 1999. In the same year, 63% of households where the highest income householder is aged 16 to 64 were owner-occupied[60].

6.3 In contrast, analysis of the Scottish Household Survey shows that home ownership is in rapid decline amongst younger households, from 45% of households under 30 in 1998 to 35% of under 30's in 2009 and has been rising rapidly amongst older age groups from 53% of over 65s to 68% over the same period[61]. Data from the Scottish Household Survey 2010 shows that adults in older age groups are more likely to have preserved Right To Buy terms (which are considered to be financially more favourable) than adults in younger age groups: 41% of adults with preserved right to buy terms are aged 60+, compared with around 18% of those with modernised (financially less favourable) terms; those aged 25-34 are least likely to have preserved right to buy terms (20%) while those aged 75+ are most likely (72%)[62].

6.4 Single older person households and older couple households are also likely to be living in Social Rented Sector (13.4% and 2.6% respectively)[63]. Few pensioners rent from a private landlord[64].


6.5 Younger age groups are over-represented in homelessness figures. For example, 6% of main applicants assessed as homeless or potentially homeless were aged 16 or 17 years old, but this age group makes up only 3% of the adult population. Similarly, 18 to 25 year olds make up 33% of cases assessed as homeless or potentially homeless, but account for only 13% of the adult population[65].

6.6 Recent homelessness data[66] show that at a national level, youth homelessness (16-24) represents a fairly static share of the number of all homeless households (around 35%). In absolute numbers, however, youth homelessness decreased by 19% in 2011-12, compared with 2010-11 (from 14,552 to 11,823).

6.7 More than one in eight (13%) children leaving care between April 2006 and March 2007 experienced one or more episodes of homelessness. This compared to nearly two in five (37%) children leaving care between April 2004 and March 2005 who experienced at least one spell of homelessness[67], suggesting decreased vulnerability to homelessness among this group.

Fuel poverty[vi]

6.8 There has been a steep rise in pensioner fuel poverty since 2003/04. In 2003-04, 35% of all single pensioner households and 27% of all older smaller households were fuel poor (Scottish Executive, 2006). In 2010, 55% of single pensioner households (196,000) and 40% of older smaller households (161,000) were fuel poor[68].

6.9 A recent review of fuel poverty in Scotland[69] has found that the elderly are most at risk from fuel poverty: half of pensioner households live in fuel poverty (49%), compared with 18% of households without pensioners. Over half of households in fuel poverty (55%) in Scotland are pensioners (32% of all fuel poor households are single pensioners; 23% of all fuel poor households are households with pensioners in them). The extreme fuel poor are twice as likely to be elderly (62% of people who are extreme fuel poor are elderly compared to 29% non- extreme fuel poor and 32% general population). Of all household types, single pensioners are also most at risk of extreme fuel poverty (20% in 2008-10). As people get older and their income falls they become more vulnerable to fuel poverty; in Scotland, 38% of pensioners are on a low income[70].

6.10 Approximately 1 in 10 families in Scotland are fuel poor (12%). Single parents are nearly 3 times more likely to experience fuel poverty than couples with children[71]: 31% of the former live in fuel poverty[72]. More positively, only 5% of the fuel poor in Scotland have a child under 5 in the household[73].

6.11 Apart from households with older people, fuel poverty also affects a high number of households with the oldest householder aged 16-25 (31%). Households with the oldest householder aged 25-59 are visibly less affected[74].

6.12 The culture and attitudes of older people towards heating the home in winter may also contribute to their living in cold homes. For example, one study that explored the experiences of older people affected by fuel poverty in the winter, reported that the people interviewed usually turned heating off during the day and that it was common practice to sleep in an unheated bedroom and to keep the window open at night[75].

House condition

6.13 Households containing a person over 60 are slightly more likely to live in energy inefficient homes than younger households. However, their dwellings are also less likely to be in need of urgent repair[76].

6.14 Older data[77] show that between 1996 and 2003-04, the number of working age adult households with dampness has decreased from 130,000 to 71,000 (a fall of 45%). The number of pensioner households with dampness has decreased from 47,000 to 32,000 (a fall of 32%). In the same period the number of working age adult households with condensation decreased from 348,000 to 177,000 (a fall of 49%). The number of pensioner households with condensation decreased from 101,000 to 66,000 (a fall of 35%).

Housing for older people

6.15 A recent report on the impact of population ageing on housing[78] estimates that the population aged 65 and over is projected to rise from 857,000 in 2008, to 1,409,000 in 2033. Similarly, the population aged 65 and over with a life limiting illness or disability is projected to rise over the same period.

6.16 The report states that specialist housing is under pressure and that costs are projected to continue to rise for support for people to remain at home. However, the ratio of sheltered housing stock to disabled pensioners is projected to fall in all areas of Scotland. In order to maintain current ratios of provision to probable need, the combined numbers of sheltered and very sheltered housing stock would need to rise from 38,000 in 2008/9, to 45,900 in 2018 and to 61,400 in 2033, a rise of 23,400 units over the period. Overall pensioner households requiring adaptations are projected to rise from 66,300 households in 2008 to 106,174 in 2033, all things remaining equal.

6.17 The report also recognised that pressure on informal and family support is projected to rise as age ratios change. The large population cohort which is currently in the key later middle aged group supplies a very large proportion of the informal homecare, and will soon be moving from the age bracket which is most likely to give care, to that which is most likely to be in need of care.

6.18 As for the implications, the report noted that large numbers of later middle aged people will reach retirement age at the same time and may need to access equity in their houses or to sell their house which may affect the future housing market. Older home owners are more likely to want to move to a smaller property than to a larger property.

6.19 The report concluded that Scotland will have many more people ageing in their current homes both as a total number, and as a proportion of the pensioner population. If there is a constant proportion of older people in need of specialist housing then demand for specialist housing would grow commensurately. This could mean either greater pressure for public sector delivery, or the Scottish Government could facilitate its being built in the private sector[79].

6.20 The most recent data on housing stocks for older people can be found on the Scottish Government website[80]. Overall, the amount of very sheltered accommodation showed consistent increases every year, rising from about 700 in 1996 to 5,300 in 2009. It remained at 5,300 for 2010, but has fallen to 3,700 in 2011. Figures for sheltered accommodation have remained fairly constant during the past 10 years at about 32,000-35,000 units, while the less specialised medium dependency housing has shown an overall drop from 17,600 to 14,800 units since 1996. Wheelchair adapted housing has increased from 2,300 in 1996 to 6,600 in 2011.

6.21 At the Census 2001, 5 % of people in Scotland aged 65 and over were in communal establishments (mainly care homes), rising to 22 % of the 85 and over age group[81].

6.22 In March 2011 the Care Home Census found that there were 920 care homes for older people in Scotland providing 38,341 places to 33,645 residents, of whom 32,545 were long stay (97%)[82]. Around a third of residents had been in the care home for more than three years at the census. The median length of stay was around 2 years.

6.23 In 2005, people under 65 constituted a small minority of long-stay residents in care homes for older people. The 65-74 age group constituted 11% while older residents were in visible majority (36% were aged 75-84 and 48% were aged 85 and over)[83].

6.24 With the majority of older people preferring to stay in their own homes as long as they can, a review of research on housing in older age found that sheltered housing was a common choice for people who required support to live at home[84]. The review suggested that sheltered housing provides social contact and a secure environment that appeal to many older people. Extra-Care and very sheltered housing have proven to be popular for a minority of people who have higher-level support needs, offering a positive alternative to residential care or high intensity care at home. Supported housing is thought to offer flexible care and accommodation that is suited to those with mobility problems, with people reporting high levels of satisfaction in relation to access to care and the provision of meals. The same review found that decisions about moving in older age are complex and highly dependent on individual circumstances.


6.25 As for deprived areas, evidence shows that deprived neighbourhoods tend to have a disproportionately younger population than more affluent neighbourhoods[85]. This is because there are high numbers of children in the most deprived areas (deciles 1 and 2) (but a high number also reside in the least deprived areas)[86], and also because people in deprived neighbourhoods have shorter life expectancy.

6.26 There are relatively more people aged 25 years to pensionable age in the less deprived areas[87]. Pensioners are less likely than average to live in either the most or least deprived areas which tend to be more urban areas.


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