Retirement industry bigwigs have written to the chancellor in hopes of starting a ‘Help to Move’ plan that would encourage retired homeowners to move into smaller dwellings.
This would consist of cutting stamp duty for downsizers over a certain age. The letter signatories believe that such a move would be cost-neutral because of consequent extra activity in the housing market further down the chain.
The letter says that currently, less than 3 per cent of new housing stock is built specifically for those in retirement, meaning that, “older people typically live in properties that are too large and unsuitable for their needs.”
This, the letter says, means that younger people “struggle to find a home of their own.” It adds: “More than half of the 15 million surplus bedrooms in the UK lie within the homes of older people.”
It says that older people downsizing into more “appropriate” housing would have three main benefits: making older people healthier and happier; unlocking the housing market for first-time buyers through the restarting of housing chains; and the regeneration of town centres, which is where the group would like to see retirement-specific housing developed.
The signatories of the letter are: Chartered Institute of Housing chief executive Gavin Smart, Association of Retirement Housing Managers chair Sam Gibson, International Longevity Centre director David Sinclair, Retirement Housing Group UK chair Richard Morton, HBF Retirement Housebuilders Group chair John Slaughter, and Civil Servants Pensioners’ Alliance general secretary Lisa Ray.
Research from Audley Group shows that 38 per cent of over-55s say that greater support for people wanting to downsize would help solve the UK’s housing shortage problem, and 34 per cent want to see a reduction in stamp duty.
However, 51 per cent of over-55 downsizers said that the most challenging part of moving was finding the right property to move into.
Audley chief executive Nick Sanderson says: “Promised radical housing and planning reforms must rid the government of its laser focus on FTBs. Instead it should tackle the chronic shortage of properties which help people stay independent, out of hospital, out of care homes, with access to support and care as they get older.
“A report from CASS Business School this month found that we will have 20 million surplus bedrooms in this country by 2040, many in houses owned by people who would like to downsize. It’s abundantly clear then that the focus should be on specialist housing.
“Hand in hand with increasing supply should come incentives, like stamp duty relief or help to move packages, for people moving out of family homes into properties that meet their needs and lifestyle.
“The government has a small window to make a real difference and improve the lives of the population, while simultaneously easing pressure on the health and social care system and stimulating the housing market. Now is the time to take this opportunity with both hands.”