The question of forced OAP downsizing was raised following my recent “Generation Trapped” post about Colchester OAPs stuck in their family homes. It’s obviously unthinkable to force OAPs to downsize but it does throw up the question of whether the government needs to use a carrot AND stick approach to change the status quo.
After buying a home big enough to raise a family, once the children have left home, many OAP couples are left rattling around in a larger house than they need. In the “Generation Trapped” post I suggested society should encourage OAP downsizing through building, tax breaks and social acceptance. That was the carrot approach, do we also need the stick?
One of the biggest reasons OAP’s move home is health (or lack of it). Looking at the statistics for Colchester, of the 12,735 homeowners aged 65 and older, 7,304 described themselves as in very good or good health, 4,147 home owning OAPs described themselves as in fair health and 1,284 in bad or very bad health.
Over 10% of Colchester OAP Homeowners Are In Poor Health
Looking at the figures for the whole of Colchester Borough Council, there are just 279 specialist retirement homes available to buy (if they were, in fact, for sale) and 914 homes available to rent from the Council and other specialist providers, but you would be on a waiting list to get your foot in the door. After enjoying the security of owning their own home for most of their adult lives I suspect many older homeowners would not feel comfortable renting a retirement property.
My best guess is the majority of “would be Colchester OAP downsizers” could afford to downsize but they’re staying put, in their larger family homes, because they can’t find a suitable property to downsize to. The bottom line is there simply aren’t enough bungalows, suitable apartments or specialist retirement properties for Colchester OAPs who are in poor health so, I’ll say it again, we need to build more appropriate houses aimed at OAPs in Colchester.
I was looking forward to the Government’s 2017 Housing White Paper, (follow the link to read the pdf version online) published in February, because I hoped it would include proposals to help solve many of the problems with the UK’s housing market – including the issue of housing an aging population. Instead the white paper feels annoyingly ambiguous to me, there’s no stick but not much carrot on offer either.
Certainly, any measures forcing our senior citizens to move by using punitive taxation, for example, a tax on empty bedrooms for retired people, and other similar tactics would, in my opinion, be unacceptable. On the other hand I couldn’t find any mention of tax breaks for OAP downsizers either so we’re no closer to an OAP downsizing solution.
As my mind wandered to come up with the perfect downsizing solution (I couldn’t) it occurred to me “downsize” is an ugly word – we definitely need to “sex it up” (or maybe down) – let me have your suggestions in the comments. So far the best I’ve come up with is “RightSizing” which at least removes the “down” – nobody likes to be downgraded, especially not when we’re living longer.
We’re not only living longer, net migration and the birth rate are still increasing so the pressure on the Colchester housing market isn’t going to ease anytime soon. I would like to see measures to encourage independent local builders to build more houses and planning changes so new developments include more apartments, bungalows and specialist retirement housing but I didn’t find either of those suggestions in the white paper.
To Colchester property investors I would say if you can get your hands on older bungalows to renovate and flip or rent people will pay top prices for them. The OAP downsizing issue isn’t going to go away in the foreseeable future. If you’d like my free honest opinion on any properties send me the Rightmove or Zoopla links and I will get back to you, often within 24 hours. Alternatively give me a ring on 01206 862288, email firstname.lastname@example.org or post your comments below.