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How a greater focus on 'last time buyers' and meeting the housing needs of older people can help solve the housing crisis

Focusing policy solely on the needs of the first time buyer won't solve the housing crisis argues a new Think Piece for the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK) by Sir Michael Lyons, Caroline Green and Neal Hudson.

Published as part of ILC-UK’s “future of the state” project, this think piece argues that building and sustaining enough housebuilding to meet our chronic undersupply requires action on all levels, not just focused on younger people.

Sir Michael Lyons and colleagues argue that whilst the Government’s focus on ‘first time buyers’ is understandable, “we might make faster progress in helping these younger generations if we devote as much of our energies to meeting the housing needs and aspirations of their parents and grandparents.”

In this think piece, the authors urges

  • More council commissioning of housing
  • A wider range of commissioners of new house building
  • A better rental offer for older people with secure tenancies
  • More shared ownership options for older people
  • Greater choice for older people in general needs housing

The authors argue that the lack of new housing supply has contributed to the rampant increase in house prices in recent decades . This in turn has resulted in housing wealth becoming the principal driver of inequality in the UK. The think piece points out that “providing a better choice of options for older people looking to downsize would unlock substantial equity that could be made available to invest in new homes whilst releasing existing family homes into the market”.

Launching the think piece, Sir Michael Lyons said:

“Finding ways in which local authorities can promote, support, finance and commission new homes will be critical to achieve the Government’s housebuilding targets and in ensuring greater commissioning of homes suitable for older people.

We need a better rental offer with secure tenancies and confidence of rent stability to encourage older home owners looking to release capital to provide an income in later years and to help fund housing for their children and grandchildren.

The increased opportunities for self build, of self commissioning that government is promoting could be an attractive option for those who have equity but feel there is a lack of choice to meet their aspirations or those for whom retirement settings do not appeal”. 

Ben Franklin, Head of Economics of Ageing at ILC-UK added:

“Supporting our current and future housing needs must be a key pillar of a new social contract between the state and the individual. For more than a decade we have simply not been building sufficient homes to meet demand. This is having a detrimental impact on the livelihoods and wellbeing of people across all ages.

“Unfortunately this is not going to change any time soon unless we make some radical changes to the system. The UK’s population is growing and is ageing which will only exacerbate the current crisis. In this context, supporting the housing needs of older people can be one important component of a strategy to revitalise the nation’s housing.”

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