Later Life Ambitions Policy Positions
Whatever your age, where you live matters. The UK is facing a crisis of housing availability with many struggling to get their foot on the first step of the housing ladder. But there is also pressure at the top of the ladder. It is time that we reimagine the future for housing in later life.
The number of people aged 85 and over is expected to more than double between 2014 and 2033, from 1.5m to 3.5m, and those aged 65 and over are expected to increase by more than 50%, from 11.4m to 17.2m. Government projections from the Department for Communities and Local Government state that 74% of all household growth to 2039 will be by those in later life.
While we welcome the measures set out in the Housing White Paper 2017, there remains a lack of currently available housing in the UK, and there is a desperate shortage of suitable housing for those in later life. This means that older people are in accommodation no longer suitable for their needs, which not only impacts on their quality of life but has a knock-on effect on their children and grandchildren who can’t access the family homes they need. According to Shelter, if just 20% of older homeowners moved into retirement housing, 840,000 family sized homes would be released on to the market.
At the same time, many older people would like to stay in their own homes. But often these homes are just not fit for purpose. All new homes should be ‘Lifetime Homes’, thoughtfully designed to provide better living environments for everyone, from new mums with buggies, to those coping with illness, or dealing with reduced mobility in later life. The ‘Lifetime Homes’ standard is already a reality in London, but we want this extended across the rest of the UK.
There are estimated to be over 4 million older people living in ‘under-occupying’ households. At a time when young people are struggling to get on the housing ladder, this is fuelling a sense of intergenerational unfairness. Older people are increasingly not downsizing, but resizing to a property more suitable to their needs.
We need a cultural shift around what retirement housing means and the benefits that it brings. This needs to be kick-started by financial and tax incentives for those looking to re-size. In a survey carried out among Later Life Ambitions members, Stamp Duty was cited by 3 in 10 as the biggest barrier to resizing. This was selected over the cost of moving home (26%), a lack of small homes on the market (25%) and a lack of suitable housing for their health needs (11%). More importantly, research suggests this would lead to an increase in revenue for the Treasury. Older people moving from under-occupied homes creates a chain reaction that could raise an additional £739 million per year.
A first step towards this would be the exemption from Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) for pensioners looking to ‘resize’ to another property which would help stimulate the market and free up valuable family-sized homes.
Specific housing for those in later life has suffered from a clear lack of direction from central Government. Just 2,500 specialist homes for older homeowners are built each year, out of a total of around 125,000 new properties. There are currently no national targets for homes for older people.
This needs to change. We need a national strategy on encouraging specialised later life housing throughout the whole of the UK.
Secondly, we need to make it easier for local authorities to sign off planning applications. Planning guidelines do not support private later life housing; it is treated in exactly the same way as other residential properties.
For example, the Community Infrastructure Levy, a tax on all new development based on square footage, does not account for the fact that up to 40% of a development for later life housing is shared space, such as communal lounges and therefore ‘unsellable’. This drives up costs, prevents new schemes from being developed and discourages developers. Housing for later living should not be treated the same as traditional developments. Instead we need a formal planning policy presumption in favour of retirement housing schemes.
Later life housing delivers the most benefits when it is at the heart of the community, near to shops, community centres and transport and health hubs. However, these prime sites face stiff competition and are often lost to other developers, including supermarket chains and other retailers. As a result, developers are discouraged from building, making it incredibly hard for anyone looking to re-size.
We are calling for the zoning of areas for later life housing, and for local authorities to be required to allocate specific sites for retirement housing in their Local Plans. These zones should be at the heart of the communities in towns and city centres – not separated from the community in isolated developments in more rural areas.
A large number of older people live in socially rented accommodation. From 2018, housing benefit entitlement for tenants in social rented homes will be limited to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate which is calculated on the basis of household size rather than the size of the property occupied. This means that for an older single person or a couple living in a two-bedroom home, such as a bungalow, their housing benefit will be capped at the one bed LHA rate. Recent National Housing Federation research has shown that this is unlikely to cover the full rent in extensive parts of England.
As the policy rolls out over time to new tenants and those who transfer, around one third of those affected are likely to be aged 65 and over. Over time more and more pensioners will become affected by the cap. Whilst for some there may be an option to move to a smaller property, there is not an adequate supply to enable this to happen, and many are unsuitable for older people. We are concerned that this represents the ‘bedroom tax’ via the ‘backdoor’ and urge the Government to exempt those of pensionable age from the cap, or to amend the criteria to base the cap on the size of property occupied.
The European Investment Bank provides funding for a range of projects in the UK, including social housing.
We are concerned that leaving the EU will mean some essential social housing projects may now never start, which will have severe effects on pensioners and families across the UK who depend on affordable housing.
Later Life Ambitions calls on the Government to commit the levels of funding required to make up for any lost investment from the European Investment Bank for social housing projects.
If you would like any more information about the LLA policy positions, please contact Tristan Westgate at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on 020 7592 9592.