Elderly hold the key to unlocking housing crisis

14 August 2018

With declining home ownership prospects for under-30s, over-65s hold the key to unlocking the housing crisis and helping increase younger people’s chances of getting on the ladder, according to the third annual Retirement Confidence Index (RCI) from McCarthy & Stone, the UK’s leading retirement housebuilder.

  • 60% of under-30s believe the UK needs more ‘later homes’ for older people
  • 70% of over-65s also say greater focus needed on providing suitable housing for older people
  • 2m extra bedrooms could be freed up by people downsizing, which could also create a boost of £364.1bn to finances of over-65s
  • 51% of under-30s say they need financial assistance from family to buy a home – a sign of how linked intergenerational finances are

Produced in conjunction with YouGov, the RCI* finds that three in five (60%) younger people believe the UK needs more ‘later homes’ for older people, not just ‘starter homes’ for first-time buyers. A greater number of pensioners (70%) feel the same way, saying there should be more focus on improving the provision of suitable housing options for older people. 

Older people share younger people’s drive to move

While younger people desperately want to get on the housing ladder, older people have an appetite for downsizing, according to the study. McCarthy & Stone found that over a third (35%) of adults aged 65 and over would consider moving – representing 4.1m pensioners.

Too many of these, however, are part of “generation stuck”, those pensioners who want to downsize but find they are blocked by limited options. 22% of older people would also consider a specialist retirement property – equivalent to 2.6m people – but just c.162,000 retirement properties have ever been built for older homeowners. 

‘Later homes’ help older people downsize and free up housing 

According to McCarthy & Stone, were all those who are considering downsizing to do so, it would equate to more than 2m** bedrooms being released into the market. This would also help release over £364bn*** of housing equity, boosting the finances of over-65s. 

The company has also found that for every person who moves into a McCarthy & Stone property, two to three properties are typically freed up in the housing chain. The UK’s largest retirement housebuilder argues that increasing the supply of suitable retirement accommodation would enable more retirees to downsize and free up housing stock that can be used by first-time buyers and young families.

Priority given to first-time buyers

Despite the demand for retirement housing, currently the government schemes in place – such as Help to Buy and Stamp Duty relief – are aimed at supporting first-time buyers, who pensioners feel are prioritised over their own needs. More than a third (38%) of older people feel this way, compared to just 3% who say that it is in fact retirees (65 to 80-year olds) who are put first.

However, there is also a mutual understanding of the struggles facing young people in the housing market. Both age groups view high house prices as the greatest burden on young people: 70% of over-65s versus 60% of under 30s feel this way. Younger people also cite low wages and the high cost of living as a burden with 45% and 54% respectively.

Table 1: What do you think are the biggest burdens for younger people with regard to their finances?


Under 30s

Over 65s

High house prices



High cost of living



Low wages



High deposit requirement for a home



High levels of debt (e.g. university fees)



Job instability



Paying for care of parents/grandparents



I don't think there are any particular burdens for younger people with regards to their finances



Source: McCarthy & Stone/YouGov May 2018

The declining prospect of owning a home, however, means younger people cling on to the hope of financial assistance from the bank of mum and dad or gran and granddad. To get on the ladder, just over half (51%) say they would need financial support from family.

Without both financial support and the greater supply of better housing options for older people, including retirement housing, the prospects of owing their own home looks bleak for younger people. 

Clive Fenton, Chief Executive of McCarthy & Stone, commented:

“Both older and younger people see the benefits in providing better housing options for our ageing population.  Millions of older people are looking for properties better suited to their needs, and young people are desperately trying to join the housing ladder.  By providing more suitable housing, such as bungalows, retirement housing or other well-designed accommodation for later life, we can address a big part of the housing crisis.  We absolutely understand the Government’s focus on helping young people join the housing ladder, but if they are really serious about solving the housing crisis they have to recognise that helping older people to downsize to free up under-occupied property has to be a significant part of the solution.”

A range of options are open to Government to increase supply of suitable housing options for older people.  This includes a one-off stamp duty exemption for older people when downsizing or moving into retirement housing, and reform of the planning system to encourage greater development in this sector. 

McCarthy & Stone was disappointed to see very little reference to housing for older people in the revised National Planning Policy Framework, published on 24 July 2018. It understands Government guidance on housing for older people will follow in the Autumn and urges the Government to consider each of the points mentioned above to drastically improve the supply of suitable housing options.

* YouGov’s survey included a nationally representative sample of 3,000 UK adults aged over 65 and 700 adults aged under 30

** 35% of over-65s would consider downsizing, equal to 4.1m people. The average amount of bedrooms downsizers would want to reduce by is 0.5. If all 4.1m downsized by 0.5 bed rooms, this is a total of 2.1m bedrooms

*** The average amount over 65s expect to release by downsizing is £88,813. If all 4.1m considering moving did this, it would total £364.1bn