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Is Help for Last-Time Buyers the Solution to the Housing Crisis?

20/11/2014 16:25 | Updated 19 January 2015

In response to the housing crisis much of the focus has been helping first-time buyers. Schemes like 'Help to buy' have supported home ownership by younger people.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has this week highlighted the increasing unaffordability of rented accommodation and called for greater investment in social housing for young families.

But the housing crisis goes much wider. And the solutions also need to focus on 'last-time buyers', says the All Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People.

Their new report says helping older people to move from and downsize their home would free up family-sized homes for younger families. It would be a win-win for older and younger generations.
The Parliamentarians call for a 'Help to move' package of measures to support and encourage older people to downsize. This would include financial measures such as stamp duty exemption, later life mortgages and shared ownership together with access to specialist financial advice.

Fundamentally there are still big barriers to downsizing by older people. Earlier this year analysis by the www.downsizingdirect.com website showed that two factors are particularly important: the lack of housing options for older people and the hassle and difficulty of moving.

The housing market has failed to respond to the growing number of older people with capital who want to move somewhere smaller and easier to manage. The lack of two/three bedroom homes is definitely stopping some older people moving.

Older people would like well-designed, accessible apartments and houses that have lower running costs but enough space for visitors and storage. As they age and become less mobile, they don't want to have to move again. A new home should be truly lifetime, where they can enjoy life and get out and about but also where they can live with care and support.

But we also know that moving comes with financial and practical difficulties. The cost of legal, survey and removal fees, stamp duty and replacing goods and furniture can make any capital gain seem inadequate. And de-cluttering possessions acquired over many years and moving from a familiar home and area present huge emotional issues.

Prudential says that two-fifths of homeowners aged over 55 are looking to downsize. Will the government come up with a 'Help to move' package to make it happen? And will planners and developers create the housing options that older people want?