The Top of the Ladder

The chronic undersupply of appropriate housing for older people is the UK’s next housing crisis. While all eyes are on those struggling to get on the bottom of the property ladder, those at the top are often trapped in homes that are too big and unmanageable. This is due to a lack of suitable homes to downsize into and in turn has a negative effect not just on older people’s health and wellbeing, but on the rest of the housing chain.

The Top of the Ladder uses original quantitative research to investigate older people’s housing preferences, and the likely impact of giving them greater choice. It estimates that if all those interested in buying retirement property were able to do so, 3.5 million older people would be able to move, freeing up 3.29 million properties. Apart from these gains, retirement housing has a very beneficial effect on older people’s health, wellbeing and social networks, and could save health and care services considerable resources.

The report suggests that this would be a triple-win for government, improving older people’s lives while stimulating the property and home-building market, at little cost to the public purse. It recommends changes to the planning code to encourage the development of retirement housing, while also providing practical help and giving financial incentives to encourage downsizing. It concludes by arguing that the Government should adopt a ‘whole chain’ view of the housing market, as helping those at the top of the ladder will unlock supply and benefit those on every other step.