We’re not going anywhere!
Mon 04 Apr 2016
Whilst debate continues surrounding the provision of housing for first time buyers, it is worth noting the disproportionate level of home ownership among the over 55s and how constant that has remained over the last 40 years.
Reviewing the latest CDLG “owner occupiers, recent first time buyers and second homes” table, home ownership in all the age groups under 44 has been in decline. Home ownership in the 65 and over age brackets, however, remains fairly high and consistently so.
The statistics can be, in part, explained by younger people staying in education longer and the rapid increases on house prices. But it would be reasonable to expect the recent financial crisis to impact home ownership across all ages.
Lack of, or retirement from, employment can adversely impact on monies coming into the household budget, and also biting pensions can all give rise to concerns regarding the ability to continue to make rental payments. It is therefore not surprising that individuals continue to see home ownership as more important in later life.
There has been much discussion as to the benefits of freeing up “under occupied” housing stock, but this belies concerns raised by older people, not least those wanting to remain in homes and in communities they may have lived in for some time. Those that do seek alternative accommodation want to ensure that it is appropriate and suitable for their needs. This might mean a second or spare bedrooms for carers, for family and friends, or indeed for hobbies and post-retirement careers.
Downsizing could also impact upon what many see as a fairly stagnant housing market, operating on swaps, chains and cycles, and on the basis of individuals/households trading up, allowing individuals to enter at the bottom of the ladder. More individuals downsizing would shake that up, and bring other and alternative properties into the mix.
The problems here, of course, is ensuring that there are properties that older people wish to move into. Whilst various surveys show evidence of a viable market, supported by an appetite among older people to move to a new property, the demands or need on an older person’s lifestyle may require the development of more specialist properties. This is likely to include more basic features – for example, level access, a flush threshold, a ground floor WC and circulation space - as well as being suitably or properly adapted to needs or demands.
Within the rented market, whether private or third sector, older people are protected from the “spare room subsidy/bedroom tax” which impacts upon those in social rented accommodation, there are housing benefit implications for those over occupying in private rented units.
Of course, applying any form of housing benefit deduction to those of pensionable age may be considered somewhat perverse: the imposition of the subsidy/tax was intended to act as an impetus to get people on benefits back into work.
So, if there are no new build properties being developed which are suitable for older people, are there funds available for those who would seek to move in to smaller accommodation to make the same more suitable/adaptable to their needs?
There are a range of grants available, which are, in the, main means tested. One also needs to consider the additional costs of living in any form of specialist housing, and where one is not an outright freeholder: leasehold service charges, additional care and funding costs, and the appropriateness/availability of care to the same.
It is not surprising that people would want to dig their heels in and remain in their own home and in familiar surroundings, even if not properly accommodated. And that is the challenge facing housing providers.