Solving the housing dilemma is “complicated” says Kirstie Allsopp

TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp, writing in The Times[i], pointed out that everyone is too focused on the young getting on the property ladder when it’s the elderly who need to be helped down it.

Ms Allsopp highlighted that many older people are living in inappropriate homes that are too large and cold for them, but that solving this housing dilemma is “complicated” saying “it’s about the right flats for the young and moving older people into more thoughtful accommodation.”

Gillian Girling, Chief Executive at Girlings Retirement Rentals agrees but says that older people need homes designed specifically for their needs, either to rent or buy, so that they can downsize if they choose to.

She says, “In our experience many older people want to downsize to a home that is smaller and more manageable, however there is a shortage of homes being built for older people that would encourage them to move. With an ageing population this is something that needs to be addressed, so downsizing is an attractive and viable option.

“Downsizing can be very emotional for people as they have great memories of a home they have spent a lot of time in, plus there is the physical impact of having to move which gets harder as people age. It can be a wrench to move so people will only want to do it if there are housing choices that meet their expectations and aspirations.

“Increasingly we see a growing number of older people downsizing to rent in purpose built retirement developments, especially if they are granted the security of an Assured Tenancy, which provides the same security of tenure as home ownership.

“There are also financial benefits. If people have a property to sell they can then invest the equity or use it to supplement their retirement income. There are rental properties available to suit all budgets and people will have the reassurance they won’t be faced with surprise bills as the property maintenance and service charges are included in the rent.”

“As an ageing nation the housing needs of older people has to become more of a priority. Building age appropriate housing, whether for rent or to buy that older people will want to move to will give people the choice to downsize if they wish to a home that is better suited to their needs.” concludes Gillian Girling.


New Minister for Loneliness is a Positive Step in Fighting Loneliness

We welcome the Government announcement yesterday[i] that a new minister for loneliness Tracey Crouch MP has been appointed.

Tracey Crouch will continue the work started by the late MP Jo Cox to tackle loneliness, an issue which is affecting nine million in the UK, young and old. A report by the Jo Cox from the Loneliness Commission[ii] highlighted that loneliness can reduce life expectancy and be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Older people especially are vulnerable to loneliness, as many live alone and can spend weeks without seeing another person or having any social interaction.

Age UK[iii] estimates 32% of people aged 65+ and over live alone – about 3.64 million people across the UK. The number of people aged 65+ is projected to rise by over 40 per cent (40.77%) in the next 17 years to over 16 million, and by 2030 it’s expected the number of people aged 75 and over will double.

Whilst it’s not just older people that are affected by loneliness, they are the group that can find it the most difficult. They may have lost a long-life partner and can have difficulty adapting to living alone or have restricted mobility which can make it harder for them to get out and access places to socialise and meet people.

A Demos report[iv] last year in conjunction with retirement house builder, McCarthy & Stone, found that those who live in retirement housing tend to feel less lonely than their peers in mainstream housing.

We agree. We have helped many older people, who have suddenly found themselves alone, to make the move into retirement housing because of the social benefits and ready-made communities on offer.

Our tenants tell us that one of the main benefits of living in a retirement development is that they can live independently, whilst surrounded by neighbours of a similar age, plus there are plenty of social activities going on should they want to join in.

Whilst it won’t cure all loneliness, living in a community and enjoying companionship and being sociable can certainly improve people’s enjoyment of life as they get older.





Stamp duty causes problems at both ends of the housing ladder

A recent report by the London School of Economics and the VATT Institute for Economic Research[i] highlights that stamp duty is making the housing crisis worse as it’s deterring many older home owners from downsizing. The report suggests that the rate of home moving would be 27 per cent higher if stamp duty was abolished.

A new report from house builders McCarthy & Stone[ii] reveals almost half (48 per cent) of over 65s would consider downsizing, especially if they were exempt from stamp duty. We agree.

The current level of stamp duty is causing problems for all generations – the young families that need extra space but can’t afford to move, and the older generation that want to downsize to a property more suitable for their needs but are finding it harder to find a buyer.

House prices have risen substantially over the past two decades, even a smaller home can come with a hefty stamp duty levy especially in popular retirement places, such as the south coast of England.

This can deter older people who are on limited incomes from moving and they essentially end up living in homes that are too big for them to maintain, with all the associated worry of property and garden upkeep.

We believe something urgently needs to be done to improve this situation so that stamp duty is not a hindrance to housing mobility. Older people should to be able to move on when they need to. The added benefit of removing stamp duty for older people is that this would unlock a stagnating property market, free up under-occupied property and provide much needed housing stock for younger generations.

One solution for older people keen to downsize is to rent a purpose-built retirement property. In our experience growing numbers of older people are choosing this option.

Whilst initially renting may not appear an attractive option for someone who has owned their own home, we find that it’s often the security of tenure which is the main stumbling block. However, this isn’t an issue when choosing to rent a retirement property through Girlings as many properties are available to rent on an assured tenancy, which means people can live in the property for as long as they wish. This provides older people with the same security and peace of mind as if they were owning their own home, but they haven’t had to pay the additional stamp duty to be able to downsize to a suitable property.

Other benefits that come from renting in retirement include freeing up capital to fund retirement; gift money to children; no longer having to deal with the upkeep of a property, which can become harder as people get older and access to a ready-made community. Additional services such as a 24-hour emergency call line in every apartment are also beneficial as people get older.

We believe that the issues surrounding stamp duty need to be addressed today so that people, at both ends of the housing ladder, have the financial incentive to move on; if not we fear the housing crisis will worsen in generations to come.



Why shouldn’t London have housing developments exclusive to the over 55s?

A recent article in The Guardian[i] focused on a new housing development called Quadra, located in a trendy part of Hackney in London and offered exclusively to the over 55s. The development is aimed at people wanting to downsize to an aspirational home in a vibrant part of the capital.

The journalist Rosie Spinks, highlighted that this type of development, offered to the older market, may be at odds with the younger population who dominate this part of London who are finding it increasingly difficult to get on the housing ladder.

She argues the development should be open to people of all ages, that some people think it is unfair, yet there has been a long tradition of providing dedicated housing for the elderly dating back almost to medieval times.

This may be true however, there is a major shortage of suitable homes for older people which is set to get worse.

The UK has an ageing population. The number of over 65s is expected to increase by more than 50% to 17.2million[ii] in the next 20 years and those aged 85 to more than double to 3.2 million so this issue is set to get worse.

According to recent figures from house builders, McCarthy & Stone,[iii] only 149,914 units of owner-occupied (including shared ownership) retirement housing have been built in the UK to date, despite one quarter of homeowners aged 60 and over (3.5 million people) expressing an interest in buying a retirement home.

Only between 1% and 2% of the UK’s population of over 60 year olds live in dedicated retirement communities, in comparison to 17% in the USA and 13% in Australia and New Zealand. The changing demographics in the UK and the ongoing housing crisis suggests this will need to change in the future.

More housing is needed to suit the changing needs of the population which should include affordable homes for our younger generation and aspirational homes that appeal to downsizers There needs to be provision at both ends of the housing ladder and a mixture of homes for sale and rent to suit all budgets.

Also, age exclusive developments like Quadra offer many benefits for older people who want to live in ready-made communities with people of their own age.

Loneliness is something that can affect the elderly and so community living can have an enormously positive impact on someone’s health and wellbeing. Access to social activities and people of a similar age is often a big draw for people downsizing to retirement developments, especially people who are single.

Why shouldn’t older people have access to desirable homes in city centre locations? I suspect not every older person dreams of retiring to a rural or coastal idyll and older people have as much right to live in trendy, busy locations as the younger generations.



[iii] Figures from the Elderly Accommodation Counsel



Renting in retirement can avoid high service charges which are putting people off downsizing

This week a new research report from law firm Winckworth Sherwood and Housing LIN, asserted that housing for older people is being ignored by the government. It also highlighted the lack of choice of housing and the fact many older buyers are confused about the retirement housing options available.


80% of those surveyed claimed that the Government’s focus on housing is unfairly skewed towards first time buyers. And while location, availability and affordability are key drivers for people to move into retirement housing, uncertainty over high service charges is preventing them making the decision to move.

As Jeremy Porteus, Managing Director at Housing LIN pointed out, “People aged over 65 are involved in some 40% of all housing moves. The Government and our industry need a long-term strategy that addresses the expectations and the care and support needs of all involved that reflects the scale of this market and to introduce measures that give older people confidence about the decisions they must take.”

While (high) service changes may be a concern for people looking to buy a retirement apartment, those that rent instead don’t need to worry about them. Renting a purpose built retirement property on an assured tenancy means there are no additional service charges or ground rent to pay, as these are paid by the leaseholder.


We are seeing growing numbers of older people choosing to rent, many downsizing from a larger home and releasing capital to help fund retirement. One of the key drivers for those choosing to rent is the assured tenancy, as people know they can rent for life if they choose and that rents will only increase annually in line with the Retail Price Index.


This makes budgeting much easier as they don’t get any unexpected surprises, or have to deal with ongoing property maintenance, which can become a burden for homeowners as they get older.

While many over 65s will be looking to buy a property when they downsize, increasing numbers are realising the benefits of renting a retirement home. We have seen a steady growth in enquiries since 2002, with 2015 and 2016 showing the highest enquiry levels yet.


Downsizing and renting can be the ideal lifestyle choice for older people, as well as being a good financial decision. Moving to a new location and enjoying a fresh start is an exciting prospect for many as they start a new stage in life. The social side of living in a retirement community, as well as the access to services they may need as they get older is a big attraction for many people.

New housing strategy aims to make it easier for older people to downsize

The government’s white paper ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ outlines its new strategy for housing in Britain including several measures to make housing more affordable and accessible to buy or rent.

We understand that a policy[i] to incentivise councils, housing associations and smaller housing developers to build more good-quality sheltered accommodation aimed at the older generation, is also being considered, which may help to reduce some of the barriers to downsizing for older people.

We support these plans wholeheartedly. Our experience tells us many older people wish to downsize and sell their family home; however, the lack of suitable purpose-built retirement properties has meant many are not currently able to do so. With more people than ever before turning 70 in 2017[ii], the demand for such housing isn’t going away.

This week, Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell, also discussed the importance of building the right type of housing for people. He said, “First of all, we’ve got a lot of demographic change in the country and an increasing elderly population, so it’s not just about how many houses you build, but are you building the right kind of houses.”

We agree. As an ageing nation with a changing demographic, people will increasingly demand homes that better suit their needs as they get older. Some may be considering a smaller home that is easier to take care of; others may need access to support services.

And for many older people, the ability to free up the capital in their home to help fund their retirement is their main motivation to sell up and downsize.

As specialists in the over 55s rental market, we recognise that security of tenure is the most important consideration for our tenants. We offer the majority of our properties on assured tenancies, which means people will not have to move again, unless they choose to do so. We hope that others will soon benefit from the security of longer tenancies too.





Why longer tenancies may benefit tenants of all ages

Citizens Advice announced last week that it will be stepping up its campaign for longer tenancies[i], in a bid to overhaul the private rented sector.

According to its figures, 39 per cent of people living with their children in rented homes have a tenancy of six months or less, which creates uncertainty. It also found that 34 per cent of private renters would like their tenancy to be longer, rising to almost 40 per cent amongst those with children. Families now make up almost four in ten private rented households.

Discussing the situation, Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Families are living under a cloud of uncertainty – not knowing when they might need to leave their home. This can make planning for the future, such as where your child can go to school, a real struggle.”

As specialist providers of retirement rental properties for the over 55s we know how important longer term tenancies are to our tenants.

In our latest customer survey carried out in October 2016, we found that 85% of people requested a tenancy of 12 months or more and 71% said that the security of assured tenancies we offer which enable tenants to rent their property for as long as they choose, mattered most to them when making the initial decision to rent.

Like Citizens Advice, we believe that should longer tenancies become more widely available for all sectors of the market – from young professionals, to families and older people – this may remove the uncertainty people face and give them more reassurance and greater security of tenure to plan for the future.


BBC’s The One Show suggests renting can be a good option for retirees

Last week, BBC’s The One Show (22 November 2016)[i] focused on retirement living and suggested that renting may be a good alternative to buying a property in a purpose built retirement development.

Reporter Joe Crowley highlighted that a growing number of older people are buying leasehold apartments in purpose built retirement developments. Such developments offer many benefits for older people including security and peace of mind; some offer additional care services and the majority have a ready-made community of like-minded people, which can help to counteract loneliness – one of the biggest problems facing the older population today. Special guest – musical star Elaine Paige – agreed, commenting how much her mother’s friend had benefited from living in a retirement development.

For many older people, purchasing a property in a purpose built retirement development provides an opportunity to downsize from the family home to a one or two bedroom apartment better suited to their needs.

However, there are other alternatives to purchasing and we were delighted to hear The One Show’s presenter, Matt Baker, ask if renting could be a good option for retired people – a view that was endorsed by Joe Crowley, who said “it [renting] can be a brilliant solution”.

They also discussed the fact that renting allows people to ‘try out’ living in a retirement community, perhaps taking the opportunity to move to a new area to see if they like it and experience all the social advantages without the financial ties of ownership.

We agree. Over the past 25 years we have have helped thousands of tenants discover a new lease of life through renting in retirement, mostly on Assured Tenancies, which provide reassurance and peace of mind for the tenant knowing they can live there for as long they wish. The more common Assured Shorthold Tenancy will only provide security for a fixed period of time.

Many of our tenants tell us that they wish they had rented their retirement property earlier, citing the following reasons behind their decision:

  • Renting on an Assured Tenancy gives security of tenure: you can remain in the property for as long as you choose – particularly important to older people who don’t want to be uprooted in later life.
  • No surprise bills to pay as property maintenance, upkeep costs and services of the development are included in the monthly rent.
  • Only needing one month’s notice to leave. This is particularly important for family who then have no worries about having to sell a retirement property.
  • Capital released from the sale of a family home can be invested and used to supplement retirement income or simply used to enjoy a new lease of life.

We were delighted The One Show focused on retirement living and we hope that in the future such reports will look more closely at the benefits of renting in retirement too.



New research confirms that retirees ’just want to have fun’

As the first polymer five pound notes arrive in our wallets, analysis from retirement income specialists, Retirement Advantage, reveals that over 65s in the UK spend a greater proportion of their money on lifestyle products and services than on essentials*.

Andrew Tully, Pensions Director at Retirement Advantage commented, “With the launch of the new polymer five-pound note we wanted to investigate how older people really spend their money. It’s clear [from our analysis] that older people want to have fun, not just survive. Our research tells us many plan to prioritise quality of life in retirement above simply making do.”

The news that retirees are spending their money on having fun, improving their social lives and holidaying comes as no surprise to us. We carried out research earlier in the year which revealed that almost three quarters of people want to travel more when they retire.

Today’s over-50s view retirement as an opportunity to do all the things they may not have had time for in the past. With many people now spending a third of their life in retirement, they need to plan their finances well to fund the lifestyle they aspire to.

One good financial solution may be to sell the family home and downsize – either to rent a retirement property on an assured tenancy or to buy. This can free up capital to invest or spend on family or to travel if they wish, and can remove the cost and worry of maintaining a larger home.

Living in a retirement development offers a ready-made community of like-minded people which can provide retirees with a great social life and is particularly important for those on their own. Another advantage is that those who wish to travel can ‘lock up and leave’ their apartment knowing that it is safe and secure while they are away.


England’s South Coast Most Popular Place to Live for Retirees

Dorset has just topped ‘a best places to retire’ index released by Prudential this week, followed by West Sussex, Hertfordshire, Devon and the Isle of Wight. It’s no real surprise that seaside locations continue to be popular with Britain’s retirees and this also reflects our experience. It’s easy to see why, with the reasons for Dorset taking the top spot for the second time running including; it’s a beautiful place with all-round appeal, attracting older people for its climate and low crime rate.

Good weather was the major reason also why West Sussex, Devon and the Isle of Wight are in the top five, with the Isle of Wight taking the top spot for sunshine levels. The only county not on the South Coast of England in the top five is Hertfordshire which attracts people seeking peace and tranquillity in a rural setting.

However the Prudential data also suggests that many pensioners in the south and south west may not be able to afford to continue to live in these places, with fewer than half thinking they will be able to afford to do so comfortably on their current pensions.

One option for older people is to consider downsizing and renting on a long term tenancy in retirement. This means people can release equity in their home to invest in their retirement. At the same time it frees people up from the worries that come with owning a home such as unexpected bills and ongoing maintenance.

As people get older having a smaller home is often far more appealing because it’s less upkeep, less rooms to keep tidy, giving them more time to spend on leisure activities.

Many of Girlings rental properties offer assured ‘lifetime’ tenancies too which means people can stay in the property as long as they wish. Monthly rents include services and maintenance, which makes budgeting much easier.

Developments will usually include communal lounges for enjoying a cup of tea or coffee with other residents, plus some organise regular social events such as fish and chip suppers, keep fit and quiz nights.

We have plenty of properties available on the south coast of England so a quick search of our website could bring up your perfect retirement apartment today.