THE BLOG

Right-Sizing, And The Benefits For Generation Rent

29/09/2016 13:09

Generation rent is struggling to make ends meet - let alone save for a deposit on their first property. Young professionals often have little optimism when it comes to getting onto the property ladder in the UK. A staggering 2.8 million graduates and young people aged between 21-34 have had to move back in with their parents, unable to afford their own place.

There are many complex reasons for this. Most frustrating for me is one that may be less obvious but could be easily addressed - the lack of adequate housing for older people.

While young people struggle to get on the housing ladder, almost two-thirds of older people say they want to downsize, but aren't able to due to a chronic shortage of good-quality retirement housing.

This dual problem is one of the reasons Anchor worked with The Strategic Society Centre, an independent think tank, to look into the impacts of the current housing system. The report found that right-sizing - when people relocate into a house more suitable for their needs - could hold the solution to the housing crisis.

Enabling older people to downsize frees up properties for those further down the property ladder including first-time buyers. Once young people become home owners, they are better able to finance their later life, including paying for their care, without reliance on local authority funding - an estimated saving to the public purse of £60,700 per person. So while the two don't initially seem inter-connected - in reality, preventing older people from downsizing impacts both the elderly and the young equally.

As well as the financial impact on young people, inappropriate housing also means older people are less able to live independently and are more prone to trips and falls, costing the NHS £3,800 per person over 10 years.

Even more staggering is the cost of inadequate retirement housing on the economy as a whole. The report found that in total if adequate retirement housing was provided an estimated £14.5 billion saving could be made to the public purse over the next 50 years.

Financial impact aside, if older people want to right-size into properties more suited for their needs in retirement, this should be available but it is important to stress that right-sizing must be optional. Older people may need increased space or fittings for mobility equipment and the option to adapt spaces - they should not feel trapped in their own homes.

The needs of older people are consistently overlooked when it comes to housing policy. This was demonstrated most recently when the government left older people and providers of specialist housing in limbo over proposals to cap Housing Benefit for tenants living in retirement housing. We believe proposals to allow local discretion in funding risk making the system costly and complicated to administer and could result in a postcode lottery.

A more joined-up approach is needed. Addressing the housing crisis by increasing the supply of retirement housing is an opportunity to save billions, and create enormous benefits for both older and younger generations.

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