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Local Authority Support Needed to increase PRS Provision of Accessible Homes

Rent Guarantor Apr 16, 2021

Things change all the time and no country or industry is immune to that fact. One sector which has seen its fair share of change already in just a few years, is the UK's Private Rental Sector (PRS) and now, it's facing yet another challenge - providing lettings accommodation for a broader demographic including older and disabled tenants.

As the price of property rises and renting is increasingly a long-term choice for many people, it’s no real surprise that more tenants aged over 65 or with a disability are among those living in, or planning to live in the PRS.

However, although modern homes are increasingly likely to cater for accessible needs, much of the original and still typically ‘traditional’ PRS stock in many cities and towns would require some renovation to fall into that category. While there are local authority government grants available to help with such investments, they're rarely well-known and one prominent lettings body thinks it’s time for local governments to be more helpful to PRS landlords and investors who are keen to be more inclusive.

PRS to Serve Broader Tenant Demand

While government data shows that the proportion of home ownership has stopped declining in recent years, the number of households who rent, particularly from the PRS, is now much higher than it was just ten years ago. As demand for rental accommodation has risen, so has the supply of rental properties across various types from older stock to new, ultra-modern, purpose-built for rent homes.

However, with more people choosing to rent a home, it should come as no real surprise that landlords have to consider just one type of tenant – a single professional or young married couple without children. With that in mind, research from the Social Market Foundation shows that renters in the private sector aged 65 or over could double by 2046. That means the stock in the UK’s lettings sector must be fit for purpose and include accessible features that are suitable for older and disabled tenants.

Of course, many landlords and letting agents are keen to provide accommodation to every tenant, regardless of their specific needs. However, the costs of updating some rental properties to suit a broader cross-section of society can be high, which is something that can result in fewer accessible properties in some regions. But, with the right advice and communication from local authorities, this could change.

Local Authority Grants

Local Authorities (LAs) across England are busy departments with many responsibilities, including for housing. The PRS is often used by them to house social tenants while a broader understanding of the housing requirements across their authorities is also essential.

Most LA’s know that there isn’t enough provision of accessible rental homes but with a lack of funding and specific social housing, can struggle to find suitable housing. But, with local authority grants available for purposes including upgrading rental homes for the elderly or disabled, a programme of promotion of that, or improved communication between LA’s and PRS landlords and letting agents could encourage more landlords to apply for the grant and make accessibility improvements.

“Many tenants report they are unable to access adapted properties in the private rented sector, but at the same time, our research suggests that there has been a lack of engagement with landlords on this issue,” said Meera Chindoory, Deputy Director of Campaigns, Public Affairs and Policy at the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) said. “With data from a range of sources showing the extent to which the housing market needs to respond to the UK’s ageing population, now is the time for local authorities to work with private landlords to encourage the provision of more adapted rented properties.”

Ensuring the UK’s rental sector can provide housing for the entire cross-section of society is something that should be a priority for the government and LA’s, particularly when there are resources available and a willingness among almost three-quarters of landlords to engage on the issue. The NRLA is hoping to drive awareness of the increasing need for accessible PRS properties through a call to action for LA’s and targeted guidance for private landlords, with the success of such a push potentially having a long-term positive effect.

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affordable housing