There are now over 25 million unoccupied bedrooms in British homes. This figure, released today by new campaign group the Intergenerational Foundation, starkly highlights how much of Britain’s housing is unused despite the desperate housing shortage that affects the younger generation.
The under-occupation of housing has jumped by around 45% since 2003 and is continuing to grow at an alarming pace. This is mainly because older people are living longer and staying in the family home rather than downsizing to more appropriate accommodation.
“The 'housing crisis' is increasingly an issue of how our housing stock is shared between younger and older generations,” says Angus Hanton, co-founder of the Intergenerational Foundation, which launches today with the aim of drawing public attention to Britain's growing intergenerational divide. “The divide between the housing 'haves' and 'have nots' has moved from being one dominated by wealth or class to one dominated by age,” Hanton adds.
IF's report entitled ‘Hoarding of Housing’ shows that about one-third of all British homes are now “underoccupied” on common definitions, up from 20%. This means while younger families are increasingly squeezed into small flats and under-sized houses, older people are often rattling around in big houses with many bedrooms standing empty, often for years. 51.5% of those aged over 65 now live in homes with two more bedrooms than they need. 50% of single households where the owner is aged over 60 (3.7 million people) now have 3 spare bedrooms or more.
IF does not blame older generations for their position – it believes the tax system is at fault for not encouraging people to move at the right time to the right-sized accommodation for them. With property having been, at least until recently, a seeming one-way bet, there are logical reasons - under the current tax system – for people to see their houses as a store of value, and want to hang on to them.
“It is perfectly understandable that retired people cling to their home long after it has outlived its usefulness as a place to bring up a family in. But there are profound social consequences of their actions which are now causing real problems in a country where new house building is almost non-existent,” says IF report co-author Matthew Griffiths.
The lack of downsizing is a particularly British problem. IF figures show that Americans, for example, are almost twice as likely to downsize when their children leave home than British people. This is almost certainly due to the way the British tax system encourages people not to move house.
IF is not urging government to round on older generations and turf them out of their homes. But it is calling for changes to the tax system to encourage the downsizing process. Measures could include an exemption from stamp duty for the over 60s when they move to a smaller property. The government should also look at scrapping council tax and replacing it with a proper land tax, to reflect the social cost of occupying housing, particularly housing that is larger than one’s needs.
The dream of owning one's home is no longer a reality for most young people. Home ownership, which had been growing steadily since World War Two, went abruptly into reverse in 2003 and it is now steadily declining. Similarly, the number of people having to rent – mainly young people – is now rising steadily.
IF emphasises that the huge surge in house prices in Britain over the past few decades does not represent any increase in the country's net wealth. All it represents is a massive transfer of wealth from young people to older people, as the younger generation is forced to pay ever higher prices to claw its way up the property ladder.
The huge increase in wealth enjoyed by those lucky enough to have owned homes from the late 1990s onwards has been matched by the massive increase in mortgage debt taken on by younger people over the same period – debts that explain the increasing disenchantment of young people, already struggling with the knowledge that they will have to work longer, and for worse pensions, than their parents.
“The inter-generational compact has been broken. But it can be fixed. Properly designed policies could help us to use our existing housing stock much more effectively and to the benefit of all, not just a lucky few,” says Ashley Seager, IF co-founder.
Tessa Jowell, Shadow Minister for London and The Olympics adds, “This important report from the Intergenerational Foundation shows in stark relief how young people are struggling to raise a family in a home of their own, breaking what Ed Miliband has called the promise of Britain – that each generation who has worked hard would be more prosperous and have more opportunities than the last.
We know that older generations already do so much to support younger ones, for example with grandparents sharing caring responsibilities for their grandchildren. This report suggests that housing is another area where generations sharing together could help to lessen the UK’s housing shortage for younger people while providing more suitable accommodation for older people.
Older people will help shape retirement housing - 08 March 2013
Southampton will overtake Bournemouth as a retirement hotspot - 27 February 2013
Retirement housing - 12 September 2012
Inheriting can sometimes come at a cost - 20 April 2012
Campaigns & Issues
National Award Scheme Launched
THE ELDERLY Accommodation Council (EAC) National Housing awards for Older People 2013 are now in full swing
This year will be the fourth year that the awards have been held, and they aim to put residents in older peoples housing right at the centre of the assessment and award process.
A new formula for the awards has been launched this year which combine an entertaining nomination process with a Resident Consultation and already it is proving to be a great success.
Top designer and celebrity chefs join Prostate Cancer UK in leading the fight against the disease
Prostate Cancer UK is urging the nation to dust off their vintage tea cups, grab their rolling pins, get baking and hold a 1940s themed Tea For Victory party in order to raise vital funds to help the 250,000 men in the UK living with prostate cancer.
One of Britain's most acclaimed designers and vintage supporters, Wayne Hemingway, has exclusively designed 40s-style materials, including bunting, table cloths and cake stands, available for people to use at their tea parties.
Top class celebrity chefs, including Nigella Lawson, Rick Stein, Levi Roots, Ken Hom, Thane Prince, Jo Pratt, Angela Hartnett and BBC Masterchef winner Mat Follas are also showing their support for Tea For Victory by creating recipes to inspire the nation. People can read these and hear more from the chefs about why they are getting involved, by visiting www.prostatecanceruk.org/tearecipes.
Competitions & Fun
Win a set of Quartet goodies - plus the DVD and Soundtrack!
Discover a warm, fun and bittersweet look at growing old disgracefully, orchestrated by a British ensemble of acting maestros, as the number one UK box office smash hit comedy QUARTET comes to Blu-Ray, DVD and digital download on 6 May 2013.
To celebrate the release, we are offering four lucky winners the chance to win a Quartet merchandise bundle which includes: a DVD, a soundtrack by Decca records, a branded gardening set and 4 packs of plant and vegetable seeds! Each pack of seeds is matched to a character. Varieties include Cayenne pepper, Tomato, Sunflower and Poppy.
Win a prize at home or away in this month's prize draw with Silver Travel Advisor!
Enter now and you could win a prize at home or away! How about a 7 night break for 2, with flights included, in beautiful Slovenia? Or a trip to London’s glitzy theatreland, staying in a 4* hotel? Both fabulous treats which must be won!
Silver Travel Advisor is a friendly website packed with advice, tips, information and honest reviews written by and for silver travellers (aged over 50). A team of advisors are on hand to answer queries (for free), and you can share your own experiences too.
Health & Wellbeing
Active life for a healthier you
Active Life is a collective of friendly, knowledgeable and experienced health and fitness professionals, all of whom share a passion for helping people develop and maintain a healthier lifestyle.
Based in Southend on Sea, Essex, our activities range from gentle yoga, relaxation and pilates to circuit training, exercise to music, keep fit, dance classes, running groups and Nordic walking.
We cater for all abilities, working mainly with Adults aged 50 and over but also tots to teens, mums, dads, and whole family groups.
Property & Finance
New EU Tax Would Hit Millions Of Pensioners And Investors
The EU's controversial Financial Transactions Tax (FTT) would "hit the pensions and investments of millions of hard working people" and would not exclusively target "so-called City fat cats," warns the boss of the world's largest independent financial advisory firm.
Leisure and Lifestyle
Take the 20p test for safe motoring
Most UK motorists are pretty clueless when it comes to tyre tread safety, a new survey has revealed.
The vast majority of motorists are simply unaware of the absolute minimum legal tyre tread depth for their cars or vans.
In a new nationwide survey by the breakdown service Autonational Rescue, just 38% of motorists knew that the correct minimum legal tyre tread depth is in fact 1.6 millimetres.
Flying the flag for the best English beaches
Keep Britain Tidy names England’s 147 award-winning beaches for 2013
From Whitley Bay to Clacton, Margate to Torbay, England boasts some of the best and cleanest beaches in the world.
Today, Keep Britain Tidy is announcing the winners of the 2013 Blue Flag and Seaside Awards. In total 55 beaches have gained the Blue Flag and 113 have picked up the new Seaside Award (formerly Quality Coast Award).
Have you noticed that that those advocating rises in pension levels to absurd levels like this are all very much younger and have no experience of the ageing process?