UK

Elderly will be hit by 'bungalow sell-off plan', foundation warns

Bungalows Image copyright Thinkstock

Older and disabled people could be disproportionately affected by plans to force councils in England to sell high-value social housing, campaigners say.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said the policy was likely to lead to a widespread sell-off of bungalows, which are often popular among the elderly.

It said 15,300 council-owned bungalows in England could be sold off by 2021.

But ministers say councils can decide not to sell a property if it meets "a particular need" or is hard to replace.

The Housing and Planning Bill - which the government says will help more people become home owners - goes before the House of Lords later.

If it is passed, local authorities will be compelled to sell expensive properties as they become vacant, to "ensure that the money locked up in high value vacant housing stock will be reinvested in building new homes".Warning over 'bungalow sell-off plan'

According to the Bill, what will count as a "high value" property is likely to vary in different areas.

However, the foundation called on ministers to make bungalows - which it says are in high demand - and sheltered housing exempt from the initiative.

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Such a move would bring England in line with Northern Ireland, where councils are not forced to sell bungalows or ground-floor flats under a similar initiative.

In the foundation's report, researchers from Cambridge University said they found high demand for bungalows meant they were almost three times more likely to be sold off and would be harder to replace because of the amount of land needed.

It also estimated that while bungalows make up 9% of council-owned housing, they were likely to make up 25% of high-value property sales because of their higher cost and more frequent vacancies - a result of people moving into residential care or tenants moving later in life.

One in five older people currently lives in a bungalow, a proportion that increases steadily from 55-75, according to the report. This figure rises to one in four when there is someone sick or disabled in an older person's household.

'Acute housing crisis'

Brian Robson, from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the housing Bill would reduce the number of affordable homes at a time of an "acute housing crisis".

"We risk holding a great British bungalow sell-off that will make things worse for older and disabled tenants who are trying to find suitable, affordable accommodation," he said.

"The increasing reliance on costly, insecure tenancies in the private-rented sector to house families on low incomes will only serve to trap more people in poverty."

However, a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said local authorities would have the power to decide not to sell a property "if it meets a particular need and would be difficult to replace".

"Planning policy already requires local plans to take the housing needs of older and disabled people into account. Where there is a local need, councils can set much clearer standards for accessible and wheelchair-adaptable new homes," he added.

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