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 890.

    Having read most of the comments on here i have concluded that we are all 'me me me' regardless of age and generation. However on a personal note i am not going to apologise for this as i will never give up something that i own and have paid for just because someone else can't afford one. I haven't changed my car for 10 years can i have yours please - thought not!

  • rate this

    Comment number 889.

    I will gladly downsize, again, when my 2 adult children are settled. In the meantime this is still their home. They work & have rented privately which did not leave them any money to put into saving so they are both (+ one partner) back home to save. I would rather live in a smaller more manageable house/flat & help my kids when I am still around for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 879.

    Conversely you cannot blame older people for not wanting to move out of what is for some their lifetimes achievement. The older generation did not have it that good despite what you may feel it was hard work and it took me 40 years to get my home. The younger generation has been characterized as I want it now generation. However I do know it is hard to get a first start as my child has to rent

  • 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 421.

    Why just 'older people'?
    How many not-so-old are occupying multi-room mansions?
    How many very rich couples have 5 or 6 spare bedrooms?
    Add-up all the spare bedrooms in the country and then see who is over occupying.


Comments 5 of 16


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