Spencer McCarthy responds to recent calls for older people to downsize

Retirement property developer, Churchill Retirement Living, 

Spencer McCarthy, Chairman and Group Managing Director at Churchill Retirement Living, comments:

There are clear arguments for encouraging older people to move from their family home in order to help unblock the UK’s housing crisis.  But key to the success of this solution is ensuring there are sufficient, good quality retirement living options for them to downsize to, which is where the problem lies.

There is already a significant shortage of specialist retirement housing. The 2013 paper, Top of the Ladder, by think tank Demos, highlighted the chronic under supply of suitable accommodation for older people. It identified that up to 3.5 million older people, with more than £400 billion of housing wealth, are interested in buying or renting a retirement property but that there are only 100,000 such properties currently available in the UK.

We believe better provision of housing for older people is a priority issue, but there are substantial barriers to creating these properties and changes to planning reforms announced earlier this year unfortunately don’t give sufficient weight to older people’s housing needs. In fact, there is a danger that elements of these reforms will actually act as a barrier for freeing up family homes for those wanting to downsize, as there will not be sufficient housing for them.

In comparison to standard housebuilders, specialist developers are burdened with many extra costs – and they need to be incentivised to build these homes. Changes to the planning system such as creating a specific use class category for retirement properties - equivalent to affordable housing - and the scrapping of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) would make a real difference.

As well as making it easier for developers to build more specialist retirement properties; in an age demographic where affordability is often an issue; the market will need to be stimulated to help get people moving, in much the same way as at the bottom of the ladder.

Stamp duty remains a prohibitive barrier for many, and despite recent changes to the system, we believe there is still more than should be done for older people. A stamp duty exemption for over 60s who downsize would help encourage more people to move.

In debates like this it’s important we don’t forget the people who are moving from their much loved family homes, which they have often been in for decades. Retirement developments such as ours offer security, peace of mind and independent living, along with community and support.  Being in a manageable home with no maintenance can offer a new lease of life for people – ensuring they are close to amenities, and surrounded by a new community.  Addressing the lack of appropriate housing for our ageing population will not only help unblock the UK housing crisis but could make a significant long-term difference for the benefit of all, no matter what stage of life.

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