Housing: More help should be given to encourage older home owners to downsize

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Almost three million homes could be released into the housing market if better incentives and information were offered to older home-owners, encouraging them to downsize into smaller properties, according to The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The RICS Residential Policy Review sets out a number of recommendations on how Government could do more to tackle the UK’s housing crisis, including incentivising home owners to sell or rent out under-occupied family homes.

Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at RICS, said: “Britain’s older home-owners are understandably reluctant to move out of much-loved, but often under-occupied family homes.

“Clearly, it’s an emotive issue and one that needs to be treated with sensitivity, but we would like to see central and local government provide older people with the information, practical and financial support they need to downsize if that is their choice.

“This might include offering a fund to support with moving costs – Bristol City council is already piloting a great scheme along these lines – or perhaps a stamp duty discount.”

Mr Blackburn said that almost a third of over 55s have considered downsizing in the last five years but only seven percent actually did.

“Greater support for those looking to move could release 2.6 million family homes,” he added.

Mr Blackburn said: “The most consistent feature of the housing market over the last 18 months has been a distinct shortage of new sales instructions. Average stock levels on surveyors’ books have dropped to lows not seen for at least three decades. If we are to get to grips with this country’s housing crisis, we need to look at supply-led measures across Government and the wider industry in order to get the market moving.”

RICS has called on Government to expand the nation’s housing supply across all sectors – from private to social housing and private rented sectors.

The Residential Policy Review, launched at the Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth, recommends expanding affordable ownership requirements so that developers are required to offer a mandated percentage of affordable rented homes, as well as ensuring that the private rented sector is better managed and regulated through the introduction of a landlords’ register and the creation of large-scale lettings developers.