Memorandum by Age Concern England (ACE)
1.1 Age Concern England (the National Council
on Ageing) brings together Age Concern organisations working at
a local level and 100 national bodies, including charities, professional
bodies and representational groups with an interest in older people
and ageing issues. Through our national information line, which
receives 225,000 telephone and postal enquiries a year, and the
information services offered by local Age Concern organisations,
we are in day to day contact with older people and their concerns.
1.2. Age Concern England (ACE) is pleased
to be able to contribute to the ODPM Select Committee Inquiry
on Affordability and the Supply of Housing. Since the majority
of older people wish to live in general rather than specialised
the supply of affordable housing is very relevant to older people.
1.3 Given the challenges presented by an
and the importance of housing to independence and well-being,
ACE is concerned with the housing needs of the older people of
tomorrow as well as today. This submission therefore reflects
the experience of older people and the likely impact of current
housing policies on future generations of older people.
2.1 ACE's submission emphasises the relevance
of affordability and supply of housing to older peoplethe
vast majority of whom are homeowners.
2.2 Our key concerns in relation to some
of these may be summarised as:
The costs associated with owning
and maintaining a home on a fixed income (see mainly paragraphs
4.6-4.8 and 5.4-5.6).
The complex housing needs of older
people and the need to offer maximum housing choice (see section
3 and paragraphs 4.9, 6.2 and 7.4).
The needs of an ageing population
and the specific planning this requires (see section 7).
2.3 We argue that the costs and benefits
of homeownership are that:
Homeownership brings financial security,
flexibility and security of tenure to many older people.
However it is not necessarily a guarantee
of wealth. We point to the difficulties that some older people
on low incomes have in trying to maintain and repair their home.
Releasing equity is an option to
increase income in retirement but is only appropriate in certain
2.4 We emphasise the importance of choice
and housing options for older people:
There is insufficient appreciation
of the housing needs and aspirations of older people and this
has led to a lack of choice for this sizeable, including those
in large unmanageable properties considering whether to "stay
put" or "move on".
Regional disparities can make it
difficult for older people who wish to move to be nearer friends
and family or to suitable locations for their retirement.
Promotion of homeownership should
not result in the neglect of the rest of the housing sector.
Lack of choicewhich causes
some older people to remain in unsuitable housingcoupled
with an ageing population, could have significant implications
for society at large. The impact could be evident in the housing
market in the future (in terms of the availability of homes suitable
for families for example) as well as health and social care.
2.5 Finally we argue that effective planning
The housing needs and aspirations
of older people now and in the future must be identified and responded
to in national, regional and local housing strategies.
The planning system needs to take
into account the type of accommodation that is needed, the physical
design and the community infrastructure.
Older people need to be engaged in
planning housing developments from the outset.
3. GENERAL COMMENTS
Housing needs of older people
3.1 There are specific issues to consider
with regard to housing for older people. These are relevant to
the future of housing policy because they demonstrate the need
for careful future planning, the importance of the home and the
socio-economic benefits that successful housing for older people
can have. An inability to address these needs could influence
the housing market.
3.2 Older people spend between 70-90% of
their time in the home
so its role in well-being is key.
3.3 Suitable housing stock is at the heart
of ensuring that people can be supported to live at home in greater
numbers, especially in terms of housing condition and adaptability.
3.4 Older people are a hugely diverse group
with wide-ranging needsrequiring appropriate mainstream
housing as well as more specialist provision, such as retirement
housing or accommodation suitable for the most frail older people
(such as those with complex and multiple disabilities).
3.5 Mobility often decreases with age, as
can the ability to manage a large home, and many older people
will at some stage need to consider whether to "stay put"
or "move on".
3.6 There is a deficit of adapted homes
or homes capable of being adapted and the current system for adaptations
is means-tested, bureaucratic and lengthy.
3.7 Some older people would prefer to remain
in their existing homealthough the decision to remain at
home may sometimes be due to a lack of alternative choice.
3.8 A wide range of options, including mainstream
and specialised housing, is therefore required to help older people
make a successful transition from their existing homeif
this is their preferred choice.
3.9 The vast majority of older people are
homeowners and the proportion of older homeowners is set to rise
further, partly as there are more homeowners amongst younger age
groups. For example, in 2001 nearly 82% of people aged 55-59 owned
3.10 Future generations of older people
may have different and higher expectations of their housing than
Public policy on ageing
3.11 Housing, and the challenge of an ageing
population, is beginning to be recognised as a key issue. For
example, the Government's strategy on ageing, Opportunity Age,
recognises that "mainstream housing policy needs to reflect
the issues that an ageing population raises", and we look
forward to action resulting from this plan.
3.12 Yet a recent report by the Housing and
Older People Development Group (HOPDEV)a joint ODPM/DH
advisory groupadvised that "despite forming a significant
and growing proportion of all households, older people's housing
aspirations can still be all too easily overlooked".
Potential benefits of homeownership
4.1 The main benefit of owning one's own
home is the sense of security and flexibility it may bringboth
financially and in terms of security of tenure.
4.2 Indeed, higher disposable incomes in
retirement are likely to be associated with homeownership. In
part this is because those with higher lifetime earnings will
be more likely to have purchased their home and will tend also
to have better pension provision. In addition, regular outgoings
will tend to be lower for homeowners who do not have to pay rent.
For example, research commissioned by Age Concern found the weekly
incomes necessary to achieve a "modest but adequate"
standard of living in retirement was around £40 a week higher
for a single tenant than for a homeowner.
There are still homeowners in poverty although the rates, after
paying housing costs, are lower than among tenants. Among pensioners
15% of those who own their home outright are in poverty, compared
to 30% of social housing tenants and 44% of private tenants.
4.3 Equity release may also be an option
available to some homeownerseither to release a lump sum
for home improvements or other major expenses, or to provide a
regular monthly income.
4.4 Security of tenure is another benefitbut
this is dependent on the stability of the housing market and people
not assuming unsustainable financial commitments.
Concerns on homeownership
4.5 Housing equity is being suggested as
a way to fund needs such as care, adaptations and pensions in
later life. The Pensions Commission
notes that housing assets are considerable (more than £2,250
billion net of mortgage debt) and a significant proportion of
people see these as an alternative or additional retirement asset.
However the Commission's analysis suggests that this will not
provide a solution to pension problems due to uncertainty over
house prices, the fact that housing wealth is not significantly
higher among those with least pension rights and other potential
claims on housing wealth such as long-term care.
4.6 Housing equity has also been suggested
as a way of meeting other costs including repairs and council
tax. While equity can play a role for some older people there
is a limit to how far this can stretch. Furthermore, some older
homeowners have little or no equity because they live in a deprived
area while partial homeownership, through HomeBuy for example,
does not bring the same level of homeownership benefit.
4.7 Homeownership brings with it a clear
responsibility and we have heard from older people who have come
to view their home as a burden, especially as state assistance,
such as help with repairs, to homeowners has decreased over the
Promotion of homeownership
4.8 If the general expectation is that it
is "right to buy, wrong to rent" then we are very concerned
that this could give rise to people assuming excessive debt and
taking these debts into retirement.
4.9 Our view is that the promotion of homeownership
must not result in the neglect of the rest of the housing sector
and that a range of choices must be made available to those who
cannot or do not wish to buyor to homeowners needing to
leave the housing market for a variety of reasons For example,
it can be very difficult for some people to make the move from
homeownership into social rented if they cannot afford to rent
privately. This is because some local authorities do not house
homeowners or only offer limited options, sheltered housing for
instance, to older people.
5. EXTENT TO
Social and economic inequality
5.1 The Right To Buy (RTB) encouraged many
tenants to buy properties in low-cost areas that in some cases
were not saleable on the open market and often came with large
communal repairs obligations. A sizeable number of those who purchased
flats through RTB are older people and they face significant problems
in paying major works bills and service charge bills on a fixed
5.2 We believe there is a danger that, in
a bid to become a homeowner, some will buy cheaper or poorer quality
properties simply to enter the housing market and then have limited
options later on if they wish or need to move elsewhere.
Home purchase and poverty reduction
5.3 As indicated in 3.2, home purchase may
be related to greater disposable income in later life.
5.4 However, homeowners who are on low incomes
can find themselves in a worse financial position than tenants.
Pension credit guarantee is generally paid at the same rate to
homeowners and tenants. Council tax benefit and housing benefit
can cover rent and council tax yet from the £109.45 a week
benefit received older homeowners must also meet the cost of building
insurance, and home maintenance and repairs. Flats as opposed
to houses are becoming more common, especially in high density
areas, and yet there is limited assistance with the service charges
and major works costs often associated with flats. These charges
pose a particular problem for retirees when increases are more
than their pension increases. We understand that the new HomeBuy
scheme will impose a liability on the resident for full service
charges and major worksthis is extremely regrettable.
5.5 Releasing equity in a property is an
option available to homeowners to improve their income but it
is not suitable for all. For example those on the lowest incomes,
receiving benefits such as pension credit and council tax benefit,
may find that releasing income or capital simply reduces or stops
the benefits being paid.
5.6 Older householders are often unable
to maintain their homes and many live in poor quality accommodation
as a result. Older homeowners who have been resident for 30 years
or more in their current homes are one of the groups most likely
to live in a non-decent home, as are those on a low income in
the private sector.
6. ECONOMIC AND
6.1 Increases in house prices over time
is of course a major benefit for many homeowners but for some
older people this has been a mixed blessing as it has led to high
council tax bills. Those who many years ago bought what was then
an affordable home in a low cost area may now find they live in
an area of high demand where prices have increased disproportionately.
While they do not want to leave an area where they have family
and friends they are facing high council tax demands which must
be met from modest fixed incomes. Age Concern has argued for a
system of paying of local government finance which is more closely
related to ability to pay.
6.2 Furthermore, regional disparities in
house-prices are having an impact on the housing choices available
to older people. Some older people live away from friends and
family due to the changing nature of family relationships and
residence patterns. If they live in a low cost area and need to
move to seek support from relatives living in an area of higher
house prices, they may find it difficult. The trend for second
homes in coastal and rural areas is also pushing up prices and
preventing older people from retiring to what might be deemed
traditional retiring locations. This in turn is affecting migration
patterns and may be distorting the housing market.
7. SCALE OF
7.1 ACE's main concern is whether the Government,
in attempting to boost the supply of housing, particularly in
the South-East, and reviewing the planning system, has considered
adequately the particular housing challenges facing older people
now and in the future.
7.2 Planners are now required to look 15
years ahead but a recent HOPDEV report advised that "a detailed
insight into and understanding of the changing housing needs of
older people over time is essential in order to plan to meet the
housing needs and aspirations of such a diverse and large section
of the population".
7.3 The housing needs and aspirations of
older peoplenow and in the futuremust be identified
and responded to, in national, regional and local housing strategies
and planning policies as well as local development frameworksand
importantly, linked with the raft of other health, social care
and older people's strategies.
7.4 For example, older people often find
a large home difficult to manage and would like to move to a smaller
property. However, it should be recognised that downsizing does
not necessarily mean moving to a one-bedroom property or even
a bed-sit (still the only choice in some sheltered schemes). Older
people are more likely to need at least one spare room to accommodate
visiting grandchildren, take up a hobby and so on. The market
needs to address this, and other aspirations held by older people.
At present, some older people over-occupy large properties, that
would be suitable for families, because of a dearth of accommodation
that meets their needs.
7.5 It is imperative that new homes are
designed with the needs of an ageing population in mind. There
is a strong correlation between reduced mobility and disabilityaround
two thirds of disabled people are older people. Despite this,
there is a glaring deficit in accessible homes. Building regulations
(Part M) now require all new housing to meet minimum accessibility
requirements but we would urge that a higher percentage of Lifetime
are built as soon as possible. Although the Government has pledged
to review this matter, progress has so far been slow which is
regrettable given the plans to boost housing supply. Furthermore,
there is also a need to increase the supply of fully-wheelchair
accessible homes as there is already a deficit and the number
of wheelchair users is likely to rise as the population ages.
7.6 Any new developments, if they are to
serve the needs of older people and future older people, must
have good access to health, leisure and shopping facilities served
by good, reliable transport. Those households without a car have
found accessing even basic services more and more difficult and
as a consequence are in danger of becoming socially excluded.
7.7 75% of single and 25% of couple households
over the age of 65 do not have a car.
Though the number of older drivers is increasing, the ability
to walk and have easy access to public transport will continue
to be an important issue for many older people since the number
of trips made by car decreases with age. The Department of Transport
has forecast that retired people are likely to continue to make
up a disproportionate number of households with no car.
7.8 Older people must be engaged in planning
new housing developments from the outset, as should those approaching
older age as the aspirations of older people continue to evolve.
8.1 ACE is very concerned that the housing
needs of older people are properly considered in future housing
and planning policies. As we have explained above, the supply
of affordable housing is very relevant to older people since the
vast majority of older people live in mainstream housing. The
implications of not responding to this agenda, in social and economic
terms, could be very serious.
170 90% of older people live in the general housing
stock, 5% in residential/institutional provision and 5% live in
sheltered/supported housing. The 2001 Census recorded 61% of those
aged 65 and over as owning their homes outright. 76% of people
aged over 55 are homeowners, and this figure continues to rise. Back
In 2003, 18.5% of the population was over pensionable age-around
11 million people. The number of people over pensionable age is
projected to increase from 11.4 million in 2006 to 12.2 million
in 2011; 13.9 million by 2026 and peaking at 15.3 million in 2031
(Population trends 118. Winter 2004. Interim 2003-based national
population projections for the UK and constituent countries-C
Shaw, National Statistics 2004). Back
Planning for Mixed Communities (ODPM, 2005). Back
A housing advice pilot by Care & Repair England demonstrated
that even when older people were aware of housing options, a lack
of suitable accommodation meant that housing choice was simply
not a reality (Should I Stay or Should I Go? Developing Housing
Options Services for Older People, Care & Repair England,
Census 2001. Back
Opportunity Age: Meeting the Challenges of Ageing in the
21st Century (Stationery Office, 2005). Back
Delivering Housing for an Ageing Population: Informing Housing
Strategies and Housing Policies (HOPDEV, 2005). Back
Modest but Adequate-a reasonable living standard for people
aged 65-74. Age Concern's summary and policy conclusions (Age
Concern England, 2002). Back
Households below average income 2003-04 (DWP, 2005).
"Poverty" is defined as income below 60% of median household
income after housing costs. Back
Pensions: Challenges and Choices-The First Report of the
Pensions Commission (2004). Back
Yet according to the UK Housing Review 2004-05 there
has been decreasing levels of state help for homeowners (for example,
a 90% reduction in help since 1990-01, despite a significant rise
in homeownership amongst lower income groups). Back
English House Condition Survey 2001 (ODPM, 2003). Back
Delivering housing for an ageing population" Informing
housing strategies and planning policies (HOPDEV, 2005). Back
General Household Survey 2001. Back
Breaking the Cycle (Social Exclusion Unit, 2004). Back