This was a question posed to me on social media a few weeks ago, after my article about our mature members of Rotherham society and the fact many retirees feel trapped in their homes. After working hard for many years and buying a home for themselves and their family, the children have subsequently flown the nest and now they are left to rattle round in a big house. Many feel trapped in their big homes (hence I dubbed these Rotherham home owning mature members of our society, ‘Generation Trapped’).
So, should we force OAP Rotherham homeowners to downsize?
Well in the original article, I suggested that we as a society should encourage, through tax breaks and social acceptance, that it’s a good thing to downsize. But should the Government force OAPs?
Well, one of the biggest reasons OAPs move home is health (or lack of it).
15.98% of Rotherham home owning OAPs are in poor health
Looking at the statistics for Rotherham: there are 12,218 homeowners who are 65+ years old. Whilst 5,882 of them described themselves in good or very good health, a sizeable 4,383 home owning OAPs described themselves as in fair health and 1,953 in bad or very bad health. That’s nearly 16% who are in poor health:
A lack of retirement homes
In the Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council area there are no specialist retirement homes that one could buy and only 2,766 homes available to rent from the Council and other specialist providers. Many older homeowners wouldn’t feel comfortable with the idea of renting a retirement property after enjoying the security of owning their own home for most of their adult lives.
My intuition tells me the majority ‘would be’ Rotherham downsizers could certainly afford to move but are staying put in bigger family homes because they can’t find a suitable smaller property. The fact is there simply aren’t enough bungalows for the healthy older members of the Rotherham population and specialist retirement properties for the ones who aren’t in such good health … we need to build more appropriate houses in Rotherham.
The failure of the ambiguous Housing White Paper
The Government’s Housing White Paper, published a few weeks ago, could have solved so many problems with the UK housing market, including the issue of homing our aging population. Instead, it ended up feeling annoyingly ambiguous.
Forcing our older generation to move with such measures as a punitive taxation (say a tax on wasted bedrooms for people who are retired) would be the wrong thing to do. Instead of the stick – maybe the Government could use the carrot tactics and offered tax breaks for downsizers? Who knows – but something surely has to happen. The Housing White Paper may have possibly been a wasted opportunity.
‘Downsize’ is an awful word
Isn’t ‘downsize’ such an awful word? This phrase (and others) feel like our OAPs are lowering and downgrading themselves in their retirement (and let’s be frank – no one likes to be downgraded). I prefer to use the word ‘decent-size’ instead of ‘downsize’.
The simple fact is we are living longer as a population and constantly growing with increased birth rates and immigration.
My advice to homeowners and property investors
What I would say to all the homeowners and property owning public of Rotherham is this: more houses and apartments need to be built in the Rotherham area, especially more specialist retirement properties and bungalows. The Government had a golden opportunity with the White Paper – and were sadly found lacking.
To those Rotherham property investors who read this blog: whilst this issue gets sorted in the coming decade(s), I would recommend considering doing up older bungalows. It seems that people will pay handsomely for them whether they are for sale or available to rent.
Just a thought!