Shortage of the right size homes “has left too many older people in unsuitable housing that can harm their health”

New analysis by ILC UK confirms significant numbers of older adults are stuck in homes larger than they need – with little to tempt them to move. 

That lack of motivation is reflected in the fact that only 11% of the one million property purchases every year in England involve buyers aged 65+ (yet they make up 38% of adult households).

The ongoing shortage of houses – with just over 200,000 new homes built in 2021/22, far short of the 300,000 homes a year target – has left too many young people and families with nowhere affordable to live. In 2022, full-time employees in England could expect to spend 8.3 times their annual earnings to buy a home – up from 3.5 in 1997.

At the same time, older adults are stuck in housing that doesn’t meet their needs.

  • Nearly nine in 10 people aged 65-79 live in under-occupied housing, with over 50% living in homes with two or more excess bedrooms.
  • 40% of the 75+ population live alone and 63% live in homes with 3 or more bedrooms.

Yet, there is a dire shortage of suitable accommodation – only 7,000 units of retirement housing are constructed each year, making “rightsizing” unattainable for many.

Too many of our homes are bad for our health and ill-prepared for the impacts of climate change:

  • Previous ILC research showed that 54% of people aged over 50 who find daily activities difficult don’t have any health-related home adaptations.
  • Instances of falls are increasing. ILC analysis finds deaths from accidental falls in England and Wales have almost tripled increasing 2.86 times since 2000 with 6,840 deaths in 2021. Most happen in the home.
  • The UK has some of the most inefficient housing stock in Europe. Rising energy costs have seen the number of households in fuel poverty increase from 4.93 million in 2021 to 7.39 million in 2022.
  • UK homes are at risk from extreme weather. Aviva’s Building Future Communities report highlighted that one in five properties are at risk from flooding and many new homes are at risk from over-heating

David Sinclair, Chief Executive at the International Longevity Centre UK said:

“Short-term thinking has led us to neglect the urgent need to reform our approach to housing in light of the UK’s ageing population. Without suitable homes to move into, too many people are rattling around alone in homes that increasingly become death traps, while young people have nowhere to live.

“There are no two ways about it – we need to build more housing which takes into account the profile of our population – which is increasingly older.

“But we also need to de-stagnate our current housing market – we’re stuck in a rut where moving becomes increasingly rare as we age. Making it easier, and more attractive, for us to keep moving as our housing needs change, could help unlock the housing market for everyone.”

Housing “fundamental”

Aviva is supporting the ILC’s research into longevity, Doug Brown, CEO of Aviva UK & Ireland Life said: “After pensions, property reflects the biggest share of private wealth in the UK and supply is clearly under strain. As our society ages, the demands on housing will grow – as younger people strive to get into the property market, and as older people increasingly seek to use their property to fund their retirement.

“We know that many people want to stay in their own home for as long as possible, and it is important that they can do so. But it is also important that there is the right sort of housing available for those who do want to move in later life.

“Housing is a fundamentally important issue – we need to get this right.”

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