23 July 2012 11:55
AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL MPs
The latest Census showed that in 2011 one in six people in England and Wales were aged 65 and over – 16.4% of the population. By 2050, 19 million people in the UK will be over 65, up from 10 million today. These are shocking statistics, particularly if one asks the inevitable questions: How will the older population fund their retirement? Will there be sufficient appropriate and affordable housing available to meet the specific needs of this sector?
Today there is a dearth of suitable homes available to older people and a recent report, ‘Housing the Nation’, from BNP Paribas predicts the situation will worsen, with the number of new homes being built this year falling below 100,000, if current trends continue.
Whilst government recently announced a new housing policy which will see investment in building and a range of measures to help first time buyers onto the housing ladder and provide support to millions of people on social housing waiting lists, there were no specific references to retirement housing. When will government address the serious problems of housing an ageing population and the acute shortage of appropriate, purpose built retirement homes available to rent or to buy?
Government also proposed new plans to encourage older people to downsize – many of whom, currently 8 million, are living in under-occupied family homes. We support this proposal. Surely the release of a percentage of these under-occupied homes would alleviate the need to build new family homes on Greenfield sites? Government must not overlook the fact that there are suitable homes already in locations that provide the resources and services to support family life. Furthermore, councils can then move families out of costly bed and breakfast accommodation, alleviating the drain on much-needed tax-payer funds. We urge government to work with local authorities to offer up brownfield sites at peppercorn rents so affordable, appropriate housing is built to cover the needs of the local population.
We must not forget that some older people may prefer to continue living in the family home, with the space it provides for visitors and there should be no forcing of the issue to suggest they give these up; however, many are older people who are lonely and would consider downsizing if suitable, fit for purpose, retirement property was readily available. Many ache for the companionship and social interaction of like-minded people which has been proven to improve the health and well-being of older people. Sadly, this type of housing is just not available in sufficient quantity to alleviate the problems of the older population.
Government needs to incentivise the retired through the tax system to move from under-occupied homes and release ‘windfall’ capital to fund their retirement needs. Whilst this will not be a popular political move, it is a solution to housing and financing retirement in the future.
Surely it is time that politicians put their differences aside and worked together across all parties for the good and the needs of the retired population? Government must also work together with the housing industry and key stakeholders to undertake a formal consultation into this important issue which impacts us all. This issue will not go away - we will all be old some day!
Chairman & CEO