Fixing our broken housing market

Fixing our broken housing market

On 7th February 2017 the Government issued a White Paper which included a suggestion made by Housing Minister Gavin Barwell that making it easier for older people to downsize could help solve the housing crisis.

Responding the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK) has urged Government to ensure thousands of new retirement properties are built as a matter of urgency.

Its Chief Executive Baroness Sally Greengross has also called on the Government to introduce a duty on Local Authorities to assess the needs of their older populations when making housing plans, and ensure that these needs are met before plans are put in place.

Research conducted by the ILC-UK has found:

  • Nearly 9 in 10 of the 65-79 age group live in under-occupied housing – over 50% live in homes with two or more excess bedrooms.
  • There are around 515,000 specialist retirement and extra care homes in England. However, this means that there is only enough specialist housing to accommodate 5% of the over-65 population.
  • According to ILC-UK calculations, there could be a retirement housing gap of 160,000 houses by 2030 if current trends continue. By 2050, the gap could grow to 376,000.

As well as freeing up a range of properties throughout the housing market, downsizing in later life could help to ensure more people can stay in their homes for longer, reducing pressure on the residential care sector.

Surveys conducted by the ILC-UK have also found that there are several reasons why older people do not downsize. One is a supply problem; the lack of suitable housing on the market. Another is financial considerations in terms of moving; stamp duty can be a major barrier.

Baroness Sally Greengross, Chief Executive, said:

“The Housing Minister is right to recognise that meeting the needs of last time buyers and encouraging downsizing is crucial to addressing the housing crisis. Downsizing can also ensure that older people live in properties that allow them to stay in their own homes for longer, and can release equity that can be used to fund social care in later live.

“Local Authorities must have a duty to assess the needs of their older population when making housing plans, and ensure that these needs are met before plans are put in place.

Government should also consider what changes can be made to Stamp Duty to remove the perceived financial barrier of downsizing.”

Later Life Ambitions

Later Life Ambitions has also been calling on the Government to recognise the housing needs of the UK’s ageing population and develop a national strategy on encouraging specialised later life housing throughout the whole of the UK.

In a recent survey of their members, almost 80% of respondents said they were not currently considering downsizing to a smaller property, with over a third of respondents (35%) highlighting a lack of smaller homes on the market (such as bungalows) as a barrier to downsizing.

Commenting on the survey results Malcolm Booth said:

“It is great to see the Government’s commitment to explore the issues faced by older people when moving house. Removing the cost barriers older people face when moving house and increasing the supply of smaller houses would enable more pensioners to downsize and free up homes for larger families”.

“Too many houses are not suitable for the needs of the UK’s ageing population. This inflates the price of the few suitable properties but also increases the cost to the taxpayer of health, social care and housing adaptations for older people trapped in unsuitable homes.

“This is why we welcome the Government’s proposal to strengthen national policy so that local planning authorities are expected to have clear policies for addressing the housing requirements of groups with particular needs, including older and disabled people.”

Later Life Ambitions is critical of the Government for not including measures to decrease Stamp Duty for later life buyers. In a recent survey conducted by the campaign group, over half (59%) of respondents said that the cost of moving house and the cost of stamp duty are major barriers that would prevent them from moving home.

Select Committee

The Communities and Local Government Select Committee have recently launched a new Parliamentary inquiry into housing for older people. Clive Betts MP, chair of the committee, said: “We want to examine what Government and local authorities can do to help expand housing supply for older people and ensure pensioners can live independent and fulfilling lives. Given the rising number of older people in England, there appears to be a glaring hole both in the housing market and in the way that authorities plan for the housing needs of older people”.