The UK population is ageing rapidly yet housing policy has changed little over the last fifty years. Now, however, an influential group of MPs have raised the alarm about the lack of suitable housing for older people and last week issued a number of policy recommendations to boost the retirement living sector.
In a report entitled Housing for Older People, members of the communities and local government committee called for a national strategy to enable more specialist housing to be built, a telephone advice service to help retired people move home and better design of new developments.
They added that the planning system wasn’t helping and called for amendments to planning legislation, including the creation of a dedicated use class for retirement housing, to encourage more development.
Committee chairman Clive Betts (Labour) said: “The right kind of housing can help people stay healthy and support them to live independently. This can help reduce the need for home or residential care, bringing real benefits to the individual and also relieving pressure on the health service.”
Leading figures in the retirement living sector have welcomed the report’s findings. However, they believe that more could still be done to improve housing for older people.
The MPs report stated that one of the biggest challenges was persuading older people to move and believes that the government should actively encourage downsizers. By enabling older people to downsize, this will free up family homes and, in so doing, gets the entire housing ladder moving. It also enables older people to live independently for longer.
A way to achieve his is to exempt downsizers from stamp duty land tax or give them a tax break to encourage them to move. With concern mounting in Westminster about the quantity and quality of retirement homes available in the UK, experts agree there is still a strong case for tax reform but the political sensitivities would have to be managed carefully. It’s up to the industry to keep up the pressure.