Pathways to renting among older former homeowners

James, Bev; Coleman, Tara; Cram, Fiona; Bates, Laura; Kearns, Robin

Abstract – Tuhinga Whakarāpopoto

In the context of Aotearoa New Zealand, we explore the experiences of older renters who were former homeowners. These renters’ trajectories reflect society’s shift to complex and risky housing pathways. The typical causes of loss of homeownership for those who had previously been homeowner included: divorce/separation, aging, and planned choice. Participants’ decision-making was also affected by their ties to birthplace, family base or whakapapa (genealogical connection). Very few of the participants in our study followed a deliberate plan to rent in order to decumulate their housing asset; instead, most had to sell and rent due to financial necessity. Their experiences suggest that, as the numbers of older renters grow, upward pressure on public housing, the Accommodation Supplement and income support payments is inevitable. Since, in general, older tenants lack assets with which to fund their own care, increased pressure will be exerted on public funding of residential care. Policy responses should address features of rental housing that enhance health, including condition and accessibility, warmth and tenants’ access to modifications and equipment to increase their safety and independence. Other suggestions are building age-friendly social housing, limiting exposure to mortgage debt, and consideration of intermediate tenures such as shared ownership for seniors with modest assets

Articles associated with this research – Karere Tūhono

Media article: Pensioner in emergency housing says more support is needed
When: 25 September 2021
What: TVNZ 1 News broadcast and article
Figures from the last Census show severe housing deprivation among Kiwis aged 65+ rose more than in any other age group – a 24 per cent increase between 2013 and 2018. >> Read More.

Media article: Retirees and housing security
When: 1 September 2021
What: RNZ The Panel with David Cormack and Ali Jones
Listen from 11:15 for a radio interview with researcher Dr Kay Saville-Smith on life for older renters and the impact.

Media article: Renting in retirement: Divorce, financial shocks and illness revealed in new research
When: 4 August 2021
What: NZ Herald article by reporter Ben Leahy
Reporter Ben Leahy discusses recent BBHTC research in a special edition of the New Zealand Population Review journal with researcher Dr Kay Saville-Smith. >> Read More.

Keywords – Kupu Hāngai

Housing, aging, older people, older tenants, homeownership, tenure insecurity, housing insecurity, tenure change

Fields of Research – Āpure Rangahau

Population Demographics; Age and aging; Housing insecurity


Date – Te Wā Whakarewa



Type – Te Auaha

Journal Paper

Citation – Kupu Hautoa

James, B., Coleman, T., Cram, F., Bates, L. & Kearns, R. (2021). Pathways to renting among older former homeowners. New Zealand Population Review, 47, 225–261. Special Edition: Housing at the heart of place, people and population.