The Chancellor’s announcement on help for first-time buyers has met with mixed reactions. Although some first-time buyers will benefit from shared ownership loans for newly-built homes, the measures still don’t address the fundamental problems preventing the majority of younger people getting on the housing ladder.
The budget also appears to ignore problems at the other end of the housing market for what can be termed ‘last-time buyers’. Many older homeowners are finding it impossible to sell their home, allowing them to downsize to more suitable and manageable forms of housing.
This is also important in terms of freeing up larger family housing, which is a key aspect of the debate around under occupation and making better use of the existing stock. Some retirement housing providers are now helping older homeowners to move through deferred payment, but many will have no choice but to put off moving for many years – if at all.
It’s surprising that so little attention is given to older homeowners given their predicament will have a significant effect on the rest of the housing economy.
There are few indications that current legislative reforms will do very much to help the development of retirement housing for those in a position to buy. Conversely, the current uncertainty around housing benefit, Supporting People grants, care funding and Attendance Allowance (as well as confusion over the new planning framework) is inhibiting the development of new retirement housing.
While the government is looking at ways of encouraging new builds and supporting the housebuilding industry, it is dispensing with standards designed to make all future housing accessible to older people. Let’s hope at some point the Chancellor gets the message that a healthy housing market requires us to address the needs of both young families and older homeowners.