Shapps outlines plans for elderly downsizing
Councils should help elderly people downsize in order to free up family homes, housing minister Grant Shapps has said.
He said the government-backed Freespace project, piloted by Redbridge Council in London, would be used as a blueprint across the country to move elderly people into more suitable rented accommodation.
Under the scheme, councils arrange for elderly people to move into rented homes or sheltered housing and then take responsibility for maintaining and letting their property at an affordable rate.
Homeowners will benefit from the rental income from their home, which will be passed back into their estate at an agreed date. Estimates suggest that a fifth of the population will be over 65 by 2020.
Mr Shapps said: ‘Moving to more suitable accommodation can make a life-changing difference for some older people. The Freespace project in Redbridge shows what could be achieved – under this scheme older people will be able to live independently for longer and enjoy more disposable income without selling their home, and other families will benefit from living in an affordable home.’
Jack Dromey, shadow housing minister, said that anything that enables pensioners to move to more suitable accommodation should be welcomed, but no-one should be forced to uproot from their home.
He said: ‘These schemes may also free up a limited amount of affordable housing for young families. But the shortage of affordable housing hasn’t arisen because the elderly are not able to downsize, it has arisen because on this government’s watch there was a catastrophic 99 per cent collapse in the building of affordable homes in the last six months.
‘If this government really wants to help young families to get a home, the building workers in the dole queue and those living in unsuitable homes, it should focus on building more affordable homes.
‘Sadly, as David Cameron showed last week when he claimed rents were falling when they are actually rising and unaffordable to many, this government is utterly out of touch with the needs of all those who simply want a decent home at a price they can afford.’
The announcement comes after the government was controversially defeated in the House of Lords before Christmas when peers voted by 258 votes to 190 to accept an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill to water down proposals to penalise working age people underoccupying their social homes.
The amendment allows tenants to receive full housing benefit if they have no more than one spare room or if no other suitable alternative accommodation is available. Ministers will decide whether to accept the amendment later in the year.