The total value of housing stock rented to 35- to 49-year-olds across the UK has increased in value from £66bn to £363bn in the past 14 years, according to Savills estate agency. Previously, we would have expected people in this age group to have bought their first home.
According to Lucian Cook, Savills’ head of residential research, more people aged 35–64, either through choice or necessity, are now renting. “We’re seeing the lack of accessibility to homeownership that was confined to the under-35s move up into the next age group,” Mr Cook said. “With a finite amount of social housing stock concentrated in older households, a lack of access to owner occupation is not just affecting the under-35s but beginning to feed up into the 35–49 age group’
A substantial shift then in a relatively short space of time.
Further along the spectrum, Legal & General report that the shortage of suitable housing for older people in Britain is keeping homeowners stuck in properties worth £820bn, leaving 7.7m spare bedrooms empty. This research suggests that almost a third of homeowners aged over-55 have considered downsizing in the past five years yet only 7% have actually made the move. Just 2% of the country’s housing stock is designed with pensioners in mind.
The L&G study claimed that if all 3.3m over-55s looking to downsize could find suitable homes, the shift would unlock 18% of the country’s property market, worth £820bn. That’s a lot of housing stock which could – should – be utilised.
This made me realise that the issue we’re facing is not simply a lack of housing stock, it’s a lack of the right type of housing. We need intelligent planning that takes the changing nature of households into account.
Part of this thinking should be making downsizing an attractive and viable option for the over-55s. While affordability issues may still be prevalent for 35–49s in terms of buying rather than renting, it might ease supply, reduce house prices and offer Generation Rent a few more options.