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Call for under-occupying older owners to downsize

Research suggests there are substantial numbers of older Londoners using too-large properties but unable to downsize because of a lack of stock. 

The research, by Professor Les Mayhew of the International Longevity Centre and Bayes Business School, shows that over-75s in the capital have more than twice the number of bedrooms they need, while the 65 to 74 population has 70 per cent more. Alongside that, separate research from the Greater London Authority suggests that 26 per cent of homes in London are under-occupied.

The crisis has been linked to the lack of good-quality downsizing options for older people in the capital. 


The Centre for London think tank has found that 19 out of 32 boroughs in the capital has no clear policy on the number and type of homes for older people needed in their area over a set time frame, nor site allocations set out.

Analysis by ARCO - the representative body for Integrated Retirement Communities which combine independent living with care and support - has found that only 0.7 per cent of older Londoners have the opportunity to live in a retirement community.

ARCO contrasts this with countries like New Zealand, Australia and the US where at least five per cent of older people live in an Integrated Retirement Community. 

A survey of UK older people conducted by ARCO in collaboration with Later Life Ambition found that 70 per cent would be interested in moving to somewhere with care and support as an alternative to a care home, but 53 per cent said their local area did not have good enough downsizing options.

ARCO is now calling on the GLA to take immediate action to expand housing for older people in London, including Integrated Retirement Communities. 

The association says the next London Plan – currently under review – should include definitions and specific targets for each type of older people’s housing, that each London borough should set out a clear plan for meeting their targets, and that older people should be given better guidance on their housing options.


Professor Mayhew says: “It is clear that while younger people in London face vast housing shortages, older people are stuck in houses which have many more bedrooms than they need, creating significant generational divides.

“With many older people wishing to downsize but lacking the good options to do so, a large part of the solution lies in expanding specialist housing for older people across the capital.

“If we even give just a small percentage of older people the opportunity to downsize, we can release up to a million bedrooms across the country by the end of the decade – a great prize.”  

And Michael Voges, ARCO’s executive director, adds: “These new findings demonstrate the urgent need to expand good-quality downsizing options for older people in the capital, including Integrated Retirement Communities combining independent living with care and support.

“Achieving this would not only be great for older people, who benefit from improved health and wellbeing and flexible care, but for younger people across London who could take advantage of freed-up bedrooms.

“Housing for young and old is not a zero sum game – we have a great opportunity to benefit all generations through an expansion of older people’s housing.”

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    No stamp duty on downsizing purchases would help.

  • Richard Copus

    How do you define under-occupation? Many elderly people hold onto their houses because their children and grand children come to stay in the family home periodically each year. That will not be computed into the statistics. A house is a home and many pensioners have made their houses their homes over decades and it is part of their whole being. To take that away would be like ripping part of themselves apart.

  • Samantha Sullivan

    For council tenants, the council should be putting in provisions for council bungalows, this will free up the larger 3 bed council houses for families.

    For property owners, it's up to them and shouldn't be bullied into downsizing!

  • adnil gnol

    much truth in this article. I'm one of those inconvenient old people as are many of my friends. We'd like to live in smaller,more convenient homes with less stairs etc but do not want to have to move to god's own waiting room on the coast where we know noone, all our friends and family being elsewhere,there's sod-all to do but stare out of the window, I'm a member of a couple of cohousing groups. We'd like to build our own small housing group where we can share resources (car,laundry,lawn mower, social areas..) and have input into the building design from day1. And we want to stay in zone2 North London, handy for theatres, concerts,classes and activities. Funded by selling our current big,draughty homes. But we want to stay local. The suitable sites that crop up are sold off to either the highest bidding developer for lux apps or to Peabody or similar who are just interested in building the max no of units on the site selling off three quarters of them at top dollar to pay for the social housing. Anchor/Peabody pay lip service to cohousing for older people but when it comes down to it, can't be bothered. We'd like to be our own developer but it's obvs difficult to get all the money upfront. Seems like an area of opportunity for small scale developers who would have their sales in place before anything else happpened


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