National housing policy fails to address needs of the elderly

An all party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People has accused policymakers of focusing all their efforts on helping first time buyers get on the property ladder at the expense of ideas that help the elderly into appropriate homes.

The Parliamentary Group, chaired by Lord Best, OBE, says that policies for new house building are concentrated on extensive support for first-time buyers. But new homes for older people can not only meet their needs, but can create the housing solutions for the younger generation as well.

The group released a report this week that calls on housing ministers to take the lead in securing enhanced support across government to boost significantly the very modest output of house building for older people.

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The report suggests stamp duty exemption would remove a barrier to downsizing for those over pension age, with Treasury benefitting from the average of three house moves that follow.

It argues that “Help to Buy” assistance should extend to those acquiring a new property in older age, bridging the affordability gaps, just as it does for young buyers.

Other suggestions for national government include:

The Homes and Communities Agency and the Greater London Authority (GLA) Affordable Housing Programmes for affordable retirement accommodation for rent should be boosted: this age group cannot benefit from the discounts for Starter Homes.

The Department of Health should supplement its capital investment programme for housing with care and support: this is a huge money-saver for the NHS and social care budgets.

The Department for Work and Pensions should ensure its policies for rent regulation/Housing Benefit do not deter investment in extra care and specialist housing for older people.

Government should increase its support for housing information and advice services – like the FirstStop Advice service – so older people can better exercise their housing choices and make informed decisions about the options available to them in retirement.

Lord Best says that the benefits of policies that encourage building of appropriate homes for the elderly will be felt across generations.

“Government must move away from concentrating exclusively on support to young first time buyers, with its huge investment in Help to Buy schemes and now in Starter Homes. It gets multiple benefits from supporting older people to enjoy better health and well-being in new homes, from saving NHS and social care spending, and from freeing up family homes for the next generation. The resultant trickle-down effect in the housing chain creates opportunities for “second steppers” and subsequently, for first time buyers,” he argues.

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