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The ageing of the property owning democracy



Existing tenure trends amongst middle-aged households mean that the next two decades will inevitably see significant increases in the numbers of older home owners in Britain. This paper applies estimates of trends in home ownership amongst older households in England, broken down by age group and household type, to official household projections to derive detailed estimates of the number of older home owners up to the year 2011. Additional data are used to derive estimates of the type and age of dwellings which older home owners will occupy and the amount of unmortgaged equity which they will have available. The paper goes on to discuss the implications of these estimates for a range of policies and academic debates. In future, fewer older home owners will experience poor housing conditions but significant minorities of single older people, many of them women and households headed by a person aged 75 and over, will continue to do so. The amount and effectiveness of investment undertaken in middle age is a key determinant of the conditions experienced in later old age, and factors such as right-to-buy and involuntary early retirement from the labour market in the 1980s and 1990s recessions, will lead to an increase in the number of very old home owners experiencing poor conditions. There will be more demand for mobility but limited equity and the lack of moving opportunities will restrict the extent to which older home owners' aspirations can be realised. The paper concludes that older home owners will face a varied future in the post-Keynesian welfare state, with many pressures to use the wealth tied up in their dwellings to meet welfare needs.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol, Rodney Lodge, Grange Road, Bristol, BS8 4EA.


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The ageing of the property owning democracy



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