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Government Urged to Act on Retirement Housing

Two separate organisations representing the interests of older people have called for a “revolution” in housing provision to better meet the housing needs of people in retirement.

Stamp Duty Exemption

Saga, which provides services for the over-50s, has called on the Chancellor to introduce a Stamp Duty exemption for those downsizing in retirement.

According to recently commissioned research, this would release an additional 111,000 family homes on to the market. Abolishing Stamp Duty on age-related housing developments would also encourage downsizing, add to the housing stock, and help free up housing for younger people aspiring to home ownership, Saga has claimed.

“We have compelling polling evidence that a third of over 60s want to downsize but they are being deterred by the cost of moving,” explained Saga’s Director of Communications Paul Green. 

“A simple change to Stamp Duty could remove this obstacle and relieve some of the massive pressure in the housing market,” he added. “Cebr suggests the cost of this reform would be counterbalanced by an estimated extra £461 million of stamp duty generated by the higher number of house purchases this would provoke. It’s a win-win for all generations.”

ILC-UK Research

This call for a greater focus on the housing needs of retirees has been echoed by think tank the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK).

The think tank has recently released research showing that:

  • Nearly nine in ten of the 65-79 age group live in under-occupied housing – over 50% live in homes with two or more excess bedrooms.
  • There are around 515,000 specialist retirement and extra care homes in England. However, this means that there is only enough specialist housing to accommodate 5% of the over-65 population.
  • According to ILC-UK calculations, there could be a retirement housing gap of 160,000 retirement housing by 2030 if current trends continue. By 2050, the gap could grow to 376,000.

The think tank has urged the Government to ensure thousands of new retirement properties are built as a matter of urgency and to require all Local Authorities to assess the needs of their older populations when making housing plans.

Encouraging Downsizing

The ILC-UK claims that retirement housing is much more likely to contain adaptations for elderly living than other forms of housing. Therefore, as well as freeing up a range of properties throughout the housing market, downsizing in later life into retirement housing could help to ensure more people can stay in their homes for longer, reducing pressure on the residential care sector.

When it comes to reasons why older people are currently choosing not to downsize, the ILC-UK’s findings were similar to Saga’s, with stamp duty and other financial costs of moving apparently posing a significant barrier. It also found that a lack of suitable housing on the market was a major deterrent.

“The Housing Minister is right to recognise that meeting the needs of last-time buyers and encouraging downsizing is crucial to addressing the housing crisis,” commented Baroness Sally Greengross, Chief Executive, ILC-UK. “Downsizing can also ensure that older people live in properties that allow them to stay in their own homes for longer, and can release equity that can be used to fund social care in later life.”

“Government should also consider what changes can be made to Stamp Duty to remove the perceived financial barrier of downsizing,” she said.

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