Charity calls for help freeing up family homes

Houses The report says existing housing stock must be used "much more effectively and to the benefit of all"

Older people should be encouraged to move into smaller homes to help tackle the "housing crisis", a charity says.

The Intergenerational Foundation calls for tax breaks to encourage downsizing and help free up some of the estimated 25 million unused bedrooms in England.

More than half of over-65s are in homes with two or more spare bedrooms, which could be used by families, says its report based on government figures.

Ministers said they did not believe in "bullying" people out of their homes.

The foundation (IF) is a new group set up to campaign on financial issues, particularly those affecting younger people, such as affordable housing and job prospects.

It says that while many people are living longer and staying in what was once their family home, younger families are being squeezed into smaller properties.

"The 'housing crisis' is increasingly an issue of how our housing stock is shared between younger and older generations," said IF co-founder Angus Hanton.

"The divide between the housing 'haves' and 'have nots' has moved from being one dominated by wealth or class to one dominated by age."

'Real problems'

The report, entitled Hoarding of Housing, said that 37% of homes in England - about eight million - were under-occupied - meaning they had at least two unused bedrooms. This is up from 20% four decades ago.

After steady growth in home ownership since World War II in England, it has been in decline since 2003.

This is because ownership among under-35s is falling faster than it is rising among over-65s, IF said.

Start Quote

We will work with families to ensure that housing becomes more affordable over time”

End Quote Grant Shapps Housing minister

"It is perfectly understandable that retired people cling to their home long after it has outlived its usefulness as a place to bring up a family in," said report co-author Matthew Griffiths.

"But there are profound social consequences of their actions which are now causing real problems in a country where new house-building is almost non-existent."

IF suggested encouraging older people to downsize by exempting over-60s from stamp duty when they sold to move to a smaller home.

The campaign group also urged the government to consider replacing council tax with "a proper land tax, to reflect the social cost of occupying housing, particularly housing that is larger than one's needs".

Housing Minister Grant Shapps said: "Whilst this report makes interesting reading, we do not agree that people should be taxed or bullied out of their homes.

"Instead we will work with families to ensure that housing becomes more affordable over time."

He pointed out that £13m was being provided to councils to make it easier for tenants to move from larger to smaller homes.

The FirstBuy scheme had been introduced to help people get on the property ladder, Mr Shapps added, and house building programmes were going to deliver 370,000 new homes.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 742.

    "The divide between the housing 'haves' and 'have nots' has moved from being one dominated by wealth or class to one dominated by age."

    In many cases the 2 are indistinguishable. Those who had a house 20 yrs ago, and are now in the ageing population, are those who have seen their house value increase dramatically, and they won't sell for less than market rate. So still dominated by the wealthy

  • rate this

    Comment number 741.

    Why do many people think the older generation had it easy. WE DID NOT. We did not get benefits for laziness/heating/cars etc we went to work, family allowance did not come in until a second child so we managed on what my husband earned,if we had not got the money we went without. WE had 2 children because that was all WE could afford now the more children the more money you get, how totally insane

  • rate this

    Comment number 740.

    Loving all of the (i preusme) older people who seem to believe only big houses can be homes. I conclude this because they seem to think it's fine to move from a small house to a big house (ergo small house not home) for practicalities sake (family growing) but not the other way around.

  • rate this

    Comment number 739.


    I didn't say the blame the older generation. I was summarising the issues rather than playing the blame game. The majority of young people are not bankers & politicians. We are people with young families who don't have any hope of having somewhere suitable to live. I'm sorry if you want to bury your head in the sand and ignore the facts. Maybe this is how we got here!

  • rate this

    Comment number 738.

    Bill"Might I suggest that they should have downsized to a 20th century 1 bedroom ground floor flat?"

    That would never happen in Rassiya Bill. Het

  • rate this

    Comment number 737.

    People should only downsize if the are bankers, Liberals or work for the BBC

  • rate this

    Comment number 736.

    Re comment 734. No the answer is smaller population, the resources are all running out. There is constant floods even in summer as rain cannot soak into the ground due all the houses,roads businesses and people. There are empty houses it just they are holiday homes not used for 11 months of yr. The build,build culture needs to end.

  • rate this

    Comment number 735.

    The Government need to get the Building Industry going. Build more Council Houses thus giving men jobs, younger men apprenticeships, which in turn will have a knock on effect for other Industries, such as decorating, furniture, landscaping etc., Margaret Thatacher sold off Council Houses but didnt put the money gained back into building more 2/3 bedroomed homes.Child Benefit for 2 kids only.

  • rate this

    Comment number 734.


    The baby boomers had their own problems to solve when they were growing up, going to school, going to work, finding a property to live in, looking after their own families etc. The majority of them have worked very hard for what they have got. They have paid their taxes and NI conts, survived through several recessions and had to cut back on many things to make ends meet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 733.

    Should I downsize? Definitely not. My family is not getting smaller, but bigger. First there were four of us, now the children come to visit and stay with their partners. Next there will be grandchildren. And the rest of our family lives abroad which means regular visits from brother/sisters/cousins/nieces/nephews and their partners. That aside it is very costly to move!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 732.

    Also landlords and property speculators should not be given tax relief on mortgage interest.

    Council tax should be charged double on second and third homes.

    There should be an additional council tax charge on substantially under-occupies houses.

    Some of this additional tax revenue might then be spent on the ever-creaking NHS / state pensions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 731.


    The older people had it easy and are to blame for the present mess seems the mantra. No and No. Look at the age of the people at the banks who stuff us on our savings accounts , mismanage our pension funds, spend on credit, think up misleading energy tariffs , spin for our politicians....

  • rate this

    Comment number 730.


    Older people downsize, thereby creating more demand at the lower end of the housing market.

    I fail to see how that helps.

    The houses they would buy are the very ones that young people cant afford anyway! It would make even less affordable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 729.

    711. Glokta
    I'd be quite interested to know if any of the members of the "Intergenerational Foundation" have any spare bedrooms and, if so, when they plan to give them up.

    The co-founder has some woodland for sale. Desres tent anyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 728.

    @723. Harry Hayfield
    My grandparents downsized from a 18th century former chapel to a 19th century three floored house............

    Might I suggest that they should have downsized to a 20th century 1 bedroom ground floor flat?

  • rate this

    Comment number 727.

    And I blame Thatcher.

  • rate this

    Comment number 726.

    I'd like to see any one of you on here try to seek exile in France or claim healthcare, state benefits, and oust a Frenchman from his domain because someone , somewhere thinks it is too large for him.

    They have more sense.

    They just ignore 'charities' like this & bung their immigrants over to the UK and we are stupid enough to keep letting them in at our cost

  • rate this

    Comment number 725.

    There seems to be an undercurrent with this and other articles of late to pit the young against the old. Believe me no working class generation has ever had it easy with housing. I started in a mobile home in 1972 which after a few years and working 7 days a week was sold to put a deposit on a house. So perhaps more mobile home parks and obviously jobs..

  • rate this

    Comment number 724.

    Massive house price inflation has been driven by basic economic laws of short supply and increased demand. Consequently the baby boomer generation is sat on the majority of housing stock and a large amount of unearned (& untaxable) property wealth. Young families need massive mortages to fund this wealth and will also be paying for their pensions and healthcare.

    Only answer - more houses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 723.

    My grandparents downsized from a 18th century former chapel to a 19th century three floored house for one reason alone. To reduce their costs. Here we do not have to pay for heating oil, our council tax bill has been reduced and we do not have a elevated heating bill.


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