This was a question posed to me a few weeks ago, after my article about the mature residents of Evesham and the fact that many retirees feel trapped in their homes. After working hard for many years and buying a home for themselves and their family, the children have subsequently flown the nest and now they are left to rattle around in a big house. Many feel trapped in their larger homes (hence dubbing them ‘Generation Trapped’).
So, should Evesham’s OAP homeowners be encouraged to downsize?
Well in the original article, I suggested that we, as a society should encourage, through building, tax breaks and social acceptance that it’s a good thing to downsize. But should the government push OAP’s harder to move?
Well, one of the biggest reasons OAP’s move home is health (or lack of it)
Looking at the statistics for Evesham, of the 3,244 Homeowners who are 65 years and older, whilst 1,770 of them described themselves in good or very good health, a sizeable 1,136 home owning OAPs described themselves as in fair health and 338 in bad or very bad health.
10.42% of Evesham’s home owning OAP’s are in poor health
But if you look at the figures for the whole of Wychavon (not just Evesham), there are only 576 specialist retirement homes that one could buy (if they were actually For Sale) and 867 homes available to rent from the council and other specialist providers. However, many older homeowners wouldn’t feel comfortable with the idea of renting a retirement property after enjoying the security of owning their own home for most of their adult lives.
My intuition tells me the majority of ‘would be’ Evesham downsizers could certainly afford to move but are staying put, in bigger family homes, because they can’t find a suitable smaller property. The fact is that there simply aren’t enough bungalows for the healthy older members of the Evesham population and specialist retirement properties for the ones who aren’t in such good health… we need to build more appropriate homes in Evesham.
The government’s Housing White Paper, published a few weeks ago, could have solved so many problems with the UK housing market, including the issue of homing our ageing population. Instead, it ended up feeling annoyingly ambiguous.
Forcing our older generation to move, with such measures as a punitive taxation (say a tax on wasted bedrooms for people who are retired) would be the wrong thing to do. Instead of the stick, maybe the government could use the carrot tactics and offer tax breaks for down-sizers. Who knows – but something must happen?
The simple fact is that we are living longer as a population and constantly growing with increased birth rates and immigration. So, what I would say to all the homeowners and property owners of Evesham is… more houses and apartments need to be built in the Evesham area, especially more specialist retirement properties and bungalows. The Government had a golden opportunity with the White Paper – and were sadly found lacking.
And to the Evesham landlords reading, whilst this issue gets sorted in the coming decade(s), maybe seriously consider doing up older bungalows – people will pay handsomely for them – be they for sale or rent? Just a thought!