Politicians call for ‘Help to Move’ package to help older people downsize

– APPG inquiry calls for support package to help older people move home
– Measures include stamp duty exemption & ‘Help to Buy’ style equity loan
– Call for action follows analysis revealing a third of over 60’s would downsize if it was easier, but up to half of older homeowners are priced out of local retirement housing

A group of influential politicians has urged the Government to offer a package of financial support and advice to make it easier for older people to move home if they wish to downsize.

The ‘Help to Move’ scheme would include a stamp duty exemption for older people buying lower value homes, an equity loan offer – similar to the ‘Help to Buy’ approach already aimed at first time buyers – and comprehensive advice linked to new pensions freedoms.

The recommendations are the result of an inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Housing and Care for Older People, which is chaired by the housing expert and crossbench peer Lord Best and includes former local government minister, Nick Raynsford MP. The cross-party think-tank Demos acted as secretariat to the inquiry.

The inquiry’s final report argues that a ‘Help to Move’ equity loan would help older homeowners with lower value properties ‘bridge the gap’ between the value of their home and the purchase price of a new retirement property – pointing out that many older people cannot easily access mainstream mortgage lending, even when they can afford the repayments.

The report goes on to argue that exempting older people purchasing homes worth up to £250,000 from stamp duty would reduce their transaction costs, while leading to a net gain for the Treasury because of the consequent moves in the property market.

It also points out that the ‘guidance guarantee’, to be brought in with new pensions freedoms next year, as well as a new duty on local authorities to provide care advice, should be wrapped into a comprehensive package together with housing advice – helping older people make decisions about where and how they live after retirement.

Freeing up over 4 million family homes

The report cites analysis by the think-tank Demos revealing over half (58%) of over-60s – equal to around 8 million people currently living in 7 million homes – are interested in moving.

A third of over-60s specifically wanted to downsize, while a quarter said they were interested in buying a retirement property.

If ‘Help to Move’ encouraged all those wanting to downsize to move home researchers calculate that 4.3 million family homes would be freed up, easing the pressure on the housing market.

However, between 40-50% of older homeowners aren’t able to afford to downsize in their local area as their family home is not worth as much as new retirement housing – making additional financial support crucial for many older people in lower value properties.

The APPG points to land prices, an overall lack of supply, and limited availability of ‘shared ownership’ options as reasons why retirement housing is unaffordable for many older people.

Lord Best, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People, said:

“More and more people in their ‘extended middle age’ are thinking about downsizing. This can mean much reduced fuel bills and maintenance costs, perhaps the release of some capital, and can prevent a forced move in later life.  But down-sizing is not easy. Our report recommends a Help to Move package of Stamp Duty relief, financial advice and mortgage support – like the Help to Buy assistance for younger purchasers – to generate the demand that will get more high-quality homes built for this age group.”

Claudia Wood, chief executive of the think tank Demos and author of the report, said:

“Politicians from all parties are committed to helping first time buyers get onto the housing ladder, while ignoring the problems at the other end of the market – many older people would like to downsize and are stuck in properties that are hard to manage and heat.

“A lack of suitable properties and the practical and emotional upheaval of moving can’t be underestimated – but affordability is also a major barrier for many. The government needs to commit to really helping this group of people, with concrete policies – not just to ensure older people enjoy a better quality of life but also to stimulate the entire housing market by helping more older people move from family-sized homes.”
ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

The report, The affordability of retirement housing – an inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People is published on 14 November 2014.

The inquiry members included:

– Lord Richard Best (chair)
– Baroness Kay Andrews
– Baroness Liz Barker
– Baroness Valerie Howarth
– Nick Raynesford MP
– Lord Ben Stoneham
The Help to Move package – an example case study

Mrs Smith, age 64, owns a three bedroom, unmodernised house with garden, valued at £108,000. She would like to downsize to a retirement apartment, which is worth £135,000.

As she cannot afford to cover the shortfall from her savings or find a mortgage lender who will give her a mortgage for the outstanding £27,000 she decides to take advantage of the Help to Move package. She obtains:

– A 20% equity loan to bridge the gap between the sale price of her old home and the purchase price of her new home
– A stamp duty exemption on the purchase of her new home, worth £1,350
– Advice on the cost-savings of moving, reducing care costs, and how else she might manage the costs of moving, which led to her drawing down £2,000 from her pensions pot (using new freedoms) in order to cover the legal fees for her move.