Too Little, Too Late? Housing for an ageing population

A new report finds that older people tend to occupy homes that are too large for their needs, resulting in a housing market where younger buyers with families struggle to buy properties of a suitable size. A national strategy to provide more retirement properties, and to encourage older people to move to them, is advised.

“If people lived in homes more suited to their needs, 50,000 fewer homes would need to be built each year.” - Professor Les Mayhew

In the UK housing market currently, older people often inhabit homes that are too big for their needs, while younger families find it difficult moving to larger homes, and first-time buyers struggle to get onto the property market at all. By 2040, the UK population will have grown to about 73 million, and the projection is that nearly one in four people will be aged 65 and over. As a result, an already dysfunctional housing market could potentially get far worse.

With older households being only 40% to 60% efficient in their space usage, the CSFI report Too Little, Too Late? Housing for an ageing population argues that older people moving to smaller properties is both necessary and desirable in order to ease some of the UK's housing malaise. The percentage of housing geared towards the retirement market however is very small, and rather than the supply of housing for older people increasing, it has plummeted since 1990. Therefore, the supply of quality, age-friendly housing needs to increase substantially.

The report calls for action from both public and private sectors to help achieve this. National and local housing programmes should include specific targets for dwellings designed to cater for older people. The report's author, Professor Les Mayhew, argues that public policy barriers – including planning and taxes – also need to be reduced.

Some other recommendations from the report include:

1. A new government strategy on housing for older people should be devised. It should advocate a joined-up approach between departments dealing with housing and health.

2. Local authorities should be required to make plans for retirement housing, and to remove planning constraints to their development.

3. Government should promote the benefits of downsizing, and provide incentives for doing so.

4. So-called "Last-time buyers" should receive the same stamp duty relief given to first time buyers, with purchases up to £300,000 incurring no stamp duty charge.

5. Independent guidance should be made available to help those interested in downsizing better understand the financial complexities, particularly regarding value for money and the security of tenure.

The scale of the problem is significant, so the report proposes a more holistic approach to housing policy and population ageing - a national plan, with requirements for local authorities and local health and social care servies to deliver in accordance with it.

The report Too Little, Too Late? Housing for an ageing population is available to download at the link below.

A related CSFI report published last year, The Last-Time Buyer: housing and finance for an ageing society, looked at the demographic changes in the context of the UK’s ‘housing crisis' and is also featured on Cass Knowledge.


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