To Own or to Rent? Housing Policy Choices for Ageing Estonia
In the nearest future, the ageing of population will make the policy shapers face the question: will the housing used by the aged correspond to their possibilities and needs in the future? If not, then should everyone solve their problem individually, or is it necessary to formulate a national housing policy supporting smart choices?
One of the possibilities for state intervention is to develop the public rented housing sector, which so far has had low political priority. In 2015, a web poll was conducted to study the attitude of 50+ population towards public rented housing sector. 1352 persons from all over Estonia who were older than 50 years responded to the questionnaire.
The results of the poll showed that renting of housing is not widespread among the age group of 50+ at present, and there is little personal experience with it. In 74 percent of cases, the housing belonged to the respondent or their family, 3.7 percent lived in a rented flat and only 0.4 percent had subleased their housing. Most of the respondents are satisfid with their tenure and had lived there for more than 15 years. Thus most of the respondents have no direct need for changing their housing. On the other hand, the poll showed that the support for public rented housing sector is high among the 50+ population and very many aged people are ready for several changes related to their housing.
The behavioural strategies of the respondents can be divided into three categories. The most popular strategy (75 percent of respondents) was exchanging present housing for another when it becomes too costly or maintaining it is too burdensome. This behaviour strategy is possible also under the conditions of the present housing market, and does not require any new or more intensive housing policy measures. Other behavioural choice–to sell one’s property and become a tenant–divided those who had participated in the poll into two more or less equal groups. 46 percent do not want to live in a rented flat, 54 percent are ready to sell their present housing and start renting a flat. The most widespread motive for changing the status of an owner for the status of a tenant was the hope to improve one’s material welfare, maybe with the help of regulative intervention of the state. A little more than one third expressed fear that one day they may not be able to pay their rent. Here the state should come to help by providing housing in cases of emergency and also regulating the rent prices. The third strategy–becoming a lessor–was a possible behavioural choice for a small part of 50+ persons. 5 percent of respondents were ready to take a lessee unconditionally, 61 percent said a fim “no”, the main reason was not trusting people. The main motive which makes the aged consider renting out excessive space is problems with maintaining the housing, caused by their bad health. Generally the target group is little aware of the possibility to become a lessor, but the potential of such an option in improving the quality of life of the aged visibly exists.
Until now, the housing needs of young families have been on the agenda of Estonian politics, but the ageing of population forces to diversify policy choices so that they would include also options suitable for the aged.