Enough space?

Housing Minister Grant Shapps recently announced an allocation of £13m to 50 local authorities to make it easier for older social tenants to move from larger family housing into smaller more manageable properties. Many councils are looking at how they can make better use of scarce housing resources and will welcome this allocation.

Despite this, some of us are puzzled by the Minister’s approach given that many housing options and advice services, working with older people, are already in place but struggling to survive cutbacks. Wouldn’t it make more sense to link this new funding into to current housing options services operating across different tenures? Councils are to receive practice support from the Institute of Housing to develop services but it is still unclear how this will link into existing services and networks already in place.

The Minister’s statement does not indicate that older tenants will in anyway be forced or coerced to move on. However, without safeguards some providers may be tempted to put undue pressure on older tenants to move into small cramped properties against their wishes.

It may be true that older tenants need less space but that doesn’t mean they should have to accept minimal space standards. Many older people expect two-bedroom properties, often for practical reasons related to health or care needs. They need space for storage, space to cook meals and have friends round, space to pursue hobbies and interests and space for grandchildren to stay. Local authorities and housing associations must bear this in mind when considering what a reasonable and attractive offer means for older tenants and their individual circumstances.

The range of housing options is becoming increasingly restricted. For instance, older tenants who may have considered sheltered housing have found it no longer meets their needs. The withdrawal of wardens, reduced investment, and rising charges means that a cost effective and desirable alternative to general needs housing is vanishing.

There is a clear logic to offering incentives for older tenant to make it easier to move on but this in itself does little to address the overall lack of housing choices that older social tenants on low incomes want and deserve.

4 thoughts on “Enough space?”

  1. I used to work for a Housing Association and when I first started I was amazed that ther was no process of moving people from larger properties to smaller ones when their circumstances changed (family members growing up and moving out, etc) and they no longer needed the larger properties. There was often great demand for the larger properties as there tended to be fewer of them, so in principle this is a good idea, but it’s really important that the options available to move on to both offer appropriate choice of support and are of a suitably high quality.
    The optimist in me always says why do we expect the worst when there are changes to systems and the pesimist in me always responds with well look what’s happened in the past.

  2. This is a very negative blog. Whilst I agree that elderly people should not be coersed into moving, there is a significant number of people who are living in accommodation which is larger than they need and increasingly difficult for them to manage. Getting upstairs can be a problem as can coping with a large garden. Poor insulation, single glazing and old heating and hot water systems all mean many older people face high heating bils or going without heat at all. There are many good reasons for moving to smaller more manageable accommodation.
    In the thirty years I have been involved with sheltered housing and extracare provision I have seen many peoples lives transformed by a move to more suitable and supportive housing. I think the iniative is to be welcomed.

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