Bev has over 30 years’ experience as a social researcher and policy advisor, having worked in central and local government, and for 20 years run an independent research consultancy. She has been a senior researcher in a research programme about older tenants for the Ageing Well National Science Challenge and is currently involved in the Affordable Housing research programme, in the Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities National Science Challenge. Her research is solutions oriented and policy relevant.
Participatory design of information and decision support tools for older tenants and landlords: A New Zealand example
Presenter: Bev James, Public Policy & Research Ltd
New Zealand’s rapid rise in renting among middle-aged and older age groups highlights the information older people need to understand their rights and responsibilities as tenants, and to navigate the rental market. Those who have become renters in later life are often not well equipped to navigate an overheated rental market reliant on digital technology for tenancy search and applications. Moreover, New Zealand has a very lightly regulated rental market with few provisions relating to long-term tenancy and tenure security, as well as a shortage of affordable rentals and little stock targeted to seniors. No-cause tenancy termination and rising rents are the norm. Using participatory research and design with older tenants and landlords, we developed an evidence-based decision-support tool to help older tenants make decisions about their housing and navigate the rental market.
We also developed a guide for landlords and property managers about how they can best support their older tenants, since the growing group of older renters are neither visible to, nor well understood by many landlords and property managers. Despite some evidence that older people are among preferred tenants, they can also face unrealistic expectations from landlords about their capacity and ability to maintain a tenancy. Moreover, rental dwellings are often unsafe and ill-suited to older people.
Based on participatory design methods, the tenant and landlord tools were developed and tested in workshops with older people and with service and housing providers.
This paper (1) describes New Zealand’s ageing population in the context of growing renting rates; (2) describes the tools developed; (3) describes the participatory design approach used to develop each tool and lessons learned through the design process; (4) discusses the take-up and impacts of tools since their launch in September 2019.
The significant decline in homeownership and rise in renting among older age groups in New Zealand, and its impacts. The characteristics of the rental market that work against older people being able to safely and securely age in place in rentals.
- Why the tools were created: for example, the increase in ‘first time’ renters in later life and their information needs.
- What are the critical ‘need to know’ items for older renters about their tenancy and tenants’ rights and responsibilities?
- What do landlords and property managers need to know about the needs and circumstances of older tenants? How can they be informed and supported to help their older tenants sustain their tenancies and age in place securely and safely?
- What can we learn from this research about participatory design with older people?
This solutions-focused research aimed to address information asymmetry in the rental market and contributes to ‘ageing in place’ by helping older tenants maintain their independence and resilience.
It is essential to incorporate the lived experiences of older people as decisionmakers and experts in their own needs into tool design. Tools must be designed to meet the diverse needs and circumstances of older tenants.
Housing providers (landlords and property managers) must be engaged as part of the solution in supporting older tenants to sustain their tenancies and age in place.