Parliamentary report calls for reforms to help older people “rightsize” their homes

“’Right-sizing’ to a more accessible, manageable, energy-efficient home may be the perfect answer for a lot of us in older age,” writes Lord Best in a new report. “But what if you cannot afford to buy outright, yet have little chance of getting a rented apartment from a social housing provider?”

Savills, the property specialists, estimate there are around 500,000 older person households in this “squeezed middle”, many of whom have some housing equity but cannot afford to buy outright. Could the shared ownership model offer a way of opening up high-quality retirement housing in England to a much larger market than the other options?

Now, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Housing and Care for Older People has launched a report calling for a raft of reforms to open up shared ownership opportunities for affordable retirement living.

“Making retirement living affordable: the role of shared ownership housing for older people” has been written by The Smith Institute and supported by Housing 21, and proposes a package of reforms to improve and expand shared ownership schemes for what they describe as the “squeezed middle”. These are retired homeowners who cannot afford to buy a more suitable home outright but have little chance of renting with a social housing provider.

The proposals aim to make “rightsizing” accessible for the estimated 500,000 older-person households who have some housing equity – but are unable to afford to buy a retirement or extra-care apartment on the open market.

Lord Best, chair of the APPG inquiry panel, said: “With modifications, shared ownership could be a game changer in making ‘rightsizing’ an affordable option for thousands of people. Our inquiry recommends stronger consumer protection, access to good advice and a simpler grant system.

“With these changes, the shared ownership model could achieve the breakthrough needed to help large numbers move from family homes to more manageable, accessible, energy efficient homes and enjoy companionship and an active later life.”

Report recommendations include raising public awareness of shared ownership options, strengthening consumer protection for buyers and better support for “staircasing” and re-sale of properties.

The report also proposes changes to improve the government’s grant-aided Older People’s Shared Ownership scheme, planning reforms to ensure delivery of different types of housing for older people and encouraging private investment to develop the sector.

Jeremy Porteus, inquiry panel member and chief executive of the Housing Learning and Improvement Network, said: “We need to improve the range of housing tenure options for older people. The report makes a forceful argument on how this can be delivered to boost the market.”

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