The Government’s new white paper, ‘Fixing our broken housing market’, includes proposed initiatives to help the over-55s downsize from under-occupied family homes. It is hoped that by encouraging older people to move to a more suitable property, the initiatives could free up thousands of homes for younger generations.
According to research, 3.4 million pensioners’ homes have at least one bedroom spare – and 70% of people in the over 50 age group have a desire to move to a property that is a more appropriate size for their needs, or has age-related support.
The White paper notes that an increase in smaller homes for the over-55 market will be needed to address local housing needs. Building more properties specifically for this market could be combined with Local Authority incentives to make downsizing more attractive. For example, a scheme in North East London offers pensioners a range of support to help with moving home including renovation and financial advice.
Housing Minister Gavin Barwell explains: “We’ve got a lot of demographic change in the country, so it’s not just about how many houses you build, but are you building the right kind of houses. If we can make it easier for elderly people to move into that kind of accommodation, it releases family homes we’re desperate [for].”
In addition, the White Paper includes measures to make the rental market more attractive. It notes, for example, that the 6 and 12 month tenancies offered sometimes mean that people have to move when they don’t want to. The Government wants to promote longer tenancies on new build rental homes.
A Government source has emphasised that the paper is not intended to tell people, or encourage them, to move out of their homes unless they want to.
Amid concerns that the additional building initiatives may encroach on Green Belt land, the Government has also used the paper to set out protections for woodland areas. Of these, Mr Barwell said “We’re not going to weaken the protections [on Green Belt land], we have a clear manifesto commitment and there is no need to take huge tracts of land out of the green belt.”
Current Green Belt policy allows building only in exceptional circumstances. Some MPs have suggested that Councils will struggle to meet local housing needs without using green belt land.
If you would like advice on buying or selling your home or you are considering remortgaging, get in touch with our property team.