More than just a home: exploring the role of equity release

Overton, Louise (2012). More than just a home: exploring the role of equity release. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Asset-based approaches to welfare may be seen as part of a broader trend towards individual responsibility and private provision. With pressures on pension systems and the concentration of wealth in owner-occupied housing, there is debate about the potential of equity release as a source of funding in later life. However, very little is known about the role that it plays in practice.

Using a mixed methods approach, this thesis fills that gap by exploring older people’s use of equity release products and finds that they play a limited role in meeting income needs as so few people use them. Among those that do, they play different roles for different groups and make an important difference to the living standards of those with middle incomes and medium to high levels of housing wealth. However, they make less of a difference to home owners with lower incomes and more limited housing assets.

The research concludes that equity release has the potential to provide financial security but questions whether it can really function as an adequate safety net for those in need. Governments have encouraged people to accumulate housing assets partly so that they can be more self-reliant, yet have done little to help them decumulate their assets. It is suggested that governments could do more to make equity release more accessible to those at the lower end of the income and housing wealth distribution, but this should not be at the expense of asset-excluded groups.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: Institute of Applied Social Studies
Funders: Other, Economic and Social Research Council
Other Funders: Age UK
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HG Finance
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform


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