Increase in pensioner households pushing up demand for housing – where is the evidence?

A couple of weeks ago we examined a claim made by Professor Danny Dorling to the HOUSE OF LORDS Select Committee on Economic Affairs, when they were obtaining evidence for their report Building more homes. Professor Rowthorn made a similar assertion.

27. Professor Danny Dorling from the University of Oxford argued the fact people were living longer was having the biggest effect on housing demand.27 Professor Robert Rowthorn from the University of Cambridge said longevity may affect demand for housing more than immigration: “longevity may mean more people living on their own, for example, and more single-person households. Immigration might not mean that in the same way.”

HOUSE OF LORDS Select Committee on Economic Affairs, 1st Report of Session 2016–17, HL Paper 20, Building more homes

We looked at the data for Cornwall to see if there was any evidence to back up the claim and in fact found none.

Now it is always a good idea to check evidence, so we thought we would look at the figures for England.

What did we find?

In 2001 there were 20.45 million households broken down as follows:

Pensioner 4.85 million (of which 2.94 were single person)
families 9.17 million
Single person 3.21 million
Lone parent 1.93 million
Others 1.29 million

The 2011 census revealed 22.06 households, an increase of 1.61 million.
Now if professor Dorlings claim was correct we would expect a significant part of that increase due to more single person pensioner households.

But in fact the number of pensioner households actually fell to 4.58 million and single pensioner households fell to 2.73 million!

So rather than changes in pensioner households being a significant factor in housing demand, it turns out that an increase in population (some due to natural change some due to immigration) was the cause of an increase in housing demand.

As always when you see a claim from anyone – check the stats!


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