A new report says that housing policy should be focussed towards encouraging over 55s to downsize, since discovering there are 1.3 million fewer houses available since the 1980s because people are living longer.

The report from Cass Business School at City University in London argues that the housing crisis could be solved by government focusing on ‘last-time buyers’ rather than on first-time buyers.

However, the report also highlighted that many people are reluctant to downsize because modern flats are often unsuitable for older people or are too small. Cass is calling on the government to offer tax incentives to older people if they downsize, and build more retirement homes, bungalows and larger apartments.

In response, Gillian Girling, Chief Executive of Girlings Retirement Rentals, the UK leading provider of retirement rental properties, says that incentivising older people to downsize would be a step in the right direction in solving the housing crisis, but housing needs to be of a high standard and aspirational and based in locations people want to live.

“For downsizers to have any impact on reducing the housing crisis there needs to be more suitable homes available for older people to buy or rent,” she says. “These need to be in desirable locations, they must be affordable and meet the needs of people as they get older.”

“We specialise in renting in modern age exclusive developments on assured long term tenancies. We have seen that security of tenure makes renting a far more attractive proposition for downsizers, as they don’t have to worry about having to moving again if they don’t want to.

“With renting, there are other benefits too – they no longer have all the worries and costs associated with home ownership such as maintenance and upkeep so no unexpected bills.”

The Grays

One couple who downsized from their family home and moved into a retirement apartment are John and Pamela Gray who are 90 and 88 years old respectively. They rent a two-bedroom apartment through Girlings in Kingfisher Court in Surbiton, Surrey, which they moved into at the end of 2015.

The couple had lived in their family home in Farnham in Surrey for 33 years but wanted to be closer to their daughter and grandchildren in Richmond.

They chose to rent rather than buy as they didn’t want the worry of maintaining a property at their age and wanted to make it easier for their family in the long term. They didn’t want to leave them with the hassle of selling a property.

John explained, “The apartment is ideal. It is warm and the other residents living at Kingfisher Court are friendly and it feels very safe. We don’t have a garden to worry about and the location is very convenient, the buses go from right outside the door and there is a variety of great shops in the village including a supermarket.”

The retirement community at the development has proved an added bonus. There is a residents’ lounge, usually buzzing with other people to chat to and there are regular social activities to enjoy including quizzes, coffee mornings and film nights, which the couple love attending.

John adds, “There is a lot going on here and we really enjoy living here. As well as the social life, we like the reassurance of having a manager on-site, and although we haven’t had to use it we have peace of mind that our apartment has the 24-hour Care Line in case of any emergency.

“Our daughter is much happier knowing that we are just down the road and often pops in to visit us and we see a lot more of our grandsons too. We are very glad that we made the move and couldn’t want more from our home.”

Gillian Girling adds, “Stepping off the property ladder can be daunting, but renting can give people freedom to move somewhere they have always wanted to live and use the money that would have been in bricks and mortar enjoying their retirement. Renting in a retirement development won’t suit everyone but it can be a good option for those looking to downsize and live somewhere more age appropriate.”

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