- Friday, 07 September 2012
Housing for the elderly crept further down the government agenda this week. We saw the departure of Grant Shapps, Minister for Housing, who whilst talked a great deal about the housing crisis during his time in office actually has achieved little.
Today the government has announced controversial proposals to kick start the housing market, ease the housing shortage and stimulate the economy which involves house builders getting a three year holiday from adhering to affordable homes quotas as well as plans to fast track planning to help first time buyers, under the ‘First Buy Scheme’, and to guarantee the finance for infrastructure and rented housing.
The view is that too much has been spent on affordable housing and there is a shortage of appropriate rental accommodation for professionals and young people.
Whilst we agree that there is greater need for appropriate private housing to rent, is it wise to ditch affordable housing quotas when two million families are on the waiting list for social housing? What will become of these people?
Another serious problem is the shortage of retirement homes in the UK – something overlooked entirely in these proposals and the ‘Get Britain Building’ plans.
With the latest Census figures highlighting that one in six people in England and Wales are aged 65 and over – 16.4% of the population – a figure which will rise to 19 million by 2050 – why is government ignoring this demographic?
I would also question if building more family orientated homes are even needed when 8 million people are living in under-occupied homes in Britain. Many of these homes are occupied by older people who could move out if there were suitable retirement property available.
The Government should consider incentivising older people to move from under-occupied homes as this would release capital to fund their retirement needs and free up much needed family homes; but there needs to be appropriate high quality alternative housing available.
There may lie a solution in our inner cities. There are a significant number of empty rooms and flats above shops that could be regenerated and turned into properties for rent if perhaps government was to incentivise shop owners to make them available.
This could also breathe much needed new life into inner cities and start rebuilding communities.
Government must not overlook the fact there are suitable homes already in locations that provide the resources and services to support family life. Furthermore, councils can then move families out of costly bed and breakfast accommodation, alleviating the drain on much-needed tax-payer funds.
We continue to urge government to work with local authorities to offer up brownfield sites at peppercorn rents so affordable, appropriate housing is built to cover the needs of the local population.
It seems that government has a limited and blinkered view of the housing problem. Whilst they are addressing the needs of one group of people – namely the young, they are ignoring the elderly and those in need of social housing – a more vulnerable section of society.
There is little doubt that Mark Prisk has his work cut out in his new role, but let’s hope that unlike Shapps, he addresses these major issues and puts in place a joined up housing strategy that meets the needs of everyone not just select groups of people.
by Peter Girling - MD Girlings Retirement Rentals
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