Opinion - Incentivising downsizing: New builds for older generations
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities
Standard housing pictureImage: Housing via Shutterstock
By Ruth Barton
According to a survey by English Housing, the UK currently has approximately eight million households with at least two or more bedrooms unoccupied – this totals to nearly 25 million bedrooms in England being empty.
In the past decade, the costs of buying a house has surpassed income levels by 300%, resulting in more people renting and nearly 5% of the overall population (1.06million households) being categorised as overcrowded. According to research, these cramped conditions and lack of privacy can cause underachievement in school, illness and depression. This affects future life chances and causes lasting harm to education and prospects.
With overcrowding problems becoming rife and eight million homes under-occupied it seems sensible that these bedrooms are filled. The English Housing survey found that just over half of the owners of under populated homes are aged 65 and over – around four million homes.
As Britain’s aging population is growing, this issue is only expected to become more problematic. There are currently more than 10 million people aged over 65 and by 2050 this figure will almost have doubled to 19 million people. Today’s older generations are fitter, healthier and wealthier and seek suitable, affordable housing that meets their needs and lifestyle. Currently, downsizing often comes in hand with downgrading and for these empowered creatures of choice this is not an option, so they stay put.
While over 65’s in the UK prefer to stay in their family homes, research overseas found that the elderly elsewhere on the continent are happy to move from large houses to smaller apartments, they are sold an improved lifestyle and are offered a variety of quality homes to choose from.
On the continent homes for older people are not tucked away in the suburbs on forgotten edges of industrial estates, but stand tall and proud in more central locations. Residents have their own front doors but are also able to make the most of shared facilities like healthcare wardens, communal activities and hairdressing. The accommodation itself is spacious, well lit and has lovely views of outdoor spaces. It is easily adaptable, has great transport links and plenty of storage space for belongings.
Although the aging population is steadily growing, homes built to suit their needs are not. There are currently only 533,000 specialised properties for the elderly in the UK today and homes like bungalows only make up 2% of the overall housing stock. Much of the available housing that is suitable for pensioners is rundown, inconvenient and unattractive.
So to help free up the housing market for the younger generations trying to get on the property ladder more homes need to be built to suit the needs of older generations. Better quality, more attractive and appealing houses to need to be prioritised to incentivise empty nesters to downsize.
To suit everybody’s needs, a variety of different properties will need to come on the market to fit the different kinds of older people with different levels of mobility. More bungalows, residential apartments and park homes are essential to meet the expanding population to ensure both young and old are living safely and comfortably.
Ruth Barton is a digital marketing executive who is struggling to get on the housing ladder and is deeply interested in Britain’s current housing situation.