Regular readers will know my scepticism about much of what passes for housing policies in current politics, based on four main concerns:
- The talking of building new homes at unprecedented levels* on the basis of policies that are only a relatively small tweak on the past, failing to match the scale required to push housebuilding off the graph.
- The failure to take private renting seriously, despite its growing role.
- The acceptance of the myth that private rents are soaring.
- The silence over falling average household size, which has added huge pressures to the demand for properties and yet is rarely mentioned.
But on that fourth point, praise indeed is due to Liberal Democrat peer Dick Newby, as the Daily Telegraph reports:
Lord Newby, a Liberal Democrat minister, said that more than half of people aged over 55 years old had spare rooms and suggested the Government should take action to help them move.
He pointed to Government trials in which taxpayers’ money had been used to help cover the costs of moving and to help arrange mortgage financing for so-called empty nesters…
He told peers: “One of the key challenges for us is that research shows that almost half of all over-55 households have spare space in the house. If we can facilitate downsizing where people genuinely want to do it, society as the whole will benefit.”
The peer added: “For older people, the major constraint to downsizing is often the lack of appropriate alternative accommodation.
“We are committed to increasing the flow of such housing on to the market, for example through the care and support specialised housing fund.”
Of course, such moves won’t suit everyone, but these pilots look promising at helping to free up housing for those people who with a little help are happy to move.
* The numbers are even larger than appears when compared to the past, as the post-Second World War housing construction boom went along with the demolition of huge numbers of houses in slum clearance. When it comes to net new building, much of the talk is well above what was achieved even then