More and more struggling homeowners are considering using housing equity as part of their post-retirement financial plans, according to The Equity Release Council.

Of those surveyed by The Council, 73% consider using housing equity as part of their later life finances, and by 2017, more than a quarter of a million (257,168) retirees will consider downsizing and 59,347 will look into equity release.

Almost 2,000 UK consumers were surveyed, from all age groups, and research highlighted the fact that while some of today's pensioners might be able to rely on income from pensions, investments and benefits, more and more retirees realise the critical role their property will play in retirement.

The research also revealed that 55% of today's 55-64s still believe it will play some part in their retirement finances. But the most common way that people would consider accessing the value in their homes would be via downsizing (45%) followed by renting out a room (10%) and then equity release (7%).

In addition, those who have a second property such as a buy-to-let investment or holiday home might consider renting out the property for income (17%) or selling the property (7%) if they needed to improve their retirement finances.

But when asked to list what they thought would be the top sources of income in retirement, respondents listed an employer pension (44%), private pension (39%) and savings/investments (36%) came out on top. However - overall - 61% said property would be one of the top sources of finance in retirement, according to The Council.

"This research clearly shows that more and more people are considering using their property as part of their retirement finances. This might mean choosing to downsize, rent a room out or use equity release - or any combination of the above,” said Nigel Waterson, Chairman of The Equity Release Council.

"With such a heavy potential reliance on the equity tied up in UK residential property, it is vital that consumers receive accurate information and access to specialist advice and products which have excellent safeguards. Therefore we are delighted to launch The Equity Release Council which for the first time will look to bring together all aspects of this industry to promote the highest standards of consumer protection and education."