Retired people struggling to downsize

Emma Woollacott
Senior woman looking out of window
Senior woman looking out of window

Retired people in the UK own property worth £1.34 trillion - more than the gross domestic product of Czech Republic, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Finland and Denmark combined.

But we shouldn't blame them for hogging family homes, as more than a third of those surveyed by retirement house builder McCarthy & Stone said they'd like to move, if only a suitable property were available.

If they all did so, says the firm, it would not only unlock an estimated £483 billion of housing wealth, it would lead to 4.2 million homes coming on to the market.

McCarthy & Stone - which obviously has its own axe to grind - points out that while there are around 11.4 million people aged 65 or over in the UK, only around 141,000 specialist retirement homes have ever been built.

"Those aged 85 and over are expected to more than double in the next 20 years to 3.2 million and those aged 65 and over are expected to increase by more than 50% to 17.2 million," points out chief executive officer Clive Fenton.

"Unfortunately, the UK's housing stock is woefully unprepared for this demographic shift to the extended middle age, and this has created a new 'generation stuck' dilemma."

The firm is calling on the Government to introduce a Stamp Duty exemption for older people looking to downsize, and to provide greater support for retirement homes in the planning process to help boost their supply.

Earlier this year, the government proposed that one in five properties on housing developments of 10 or more homes should by law be starter homes.

However, as the McCarthy & Stone research highlights, first-time buyers aren't the only ones that are suffering from a shortage of smaller homes.

And in April, the all-party parliamentary group on housing and care for older people called for the government to turn its attention to promoting new housebuilding for older people.

It, too, wants to see stamp duty scrapped for those over pension age, and also called for the help-to-buy scheme to be extended to the old as well as the young.

"We want our housing minister to take the lead in securing support across government to boost output of housebuilding for older people," commented the committee's chair, Lord Best, in the Guardian.

"Right-sizing can help us gain the most in our later years and we need to insist – not just for ourselves but for our children and grandchildren – that barriers are lifted and opportunities enhanced for a national programme of later homes."