RICS backs idea of older home owners downsizing to boost supply crisis

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has waded into the debate over housing supply in the UK, saying that measures such as downsizing could help alleviate the current problems.

Last week the head of mortgages at the Financial Conduct Authority was criticised for saying that older people should move out of family homes to make way for younger families but RICS appears to also back the idea.

In its latest policy review RICS suggest it is one measure that could help the current shortage of supply in the housing market and that more downsizing could release almost three million homes.

It also suggests other measures such as the expansion of affordable ownership via planning controls insisting developers offer a percentage of new homes for affordable rent, regulations to oblige second home owners to release their properties for rental, and the creation of Self Invested Personal Pensions which would allow investors to put their money into Build To Let schemes.

But it adds that downsizing is considered perhaps the most effective way of improving supply in the market.  ‘Britain’s older home owners are understandably reluctant to move out of much loved, but often under occupied family homes,’ said Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at RICS.

‘Clearly, it’s an emotive issue and one that needs to be treated with sensitivity, but we would like to see central and local government provide older people with the information, practical and financial support they need to downsize if that is their choice,’ he added.

He explained that this might include offering a fund to support with moving costs and pointed out that Bristol City council is already piloting a scheme along these lines, and another suggestion is a stamp duty discount for retired people who are downsizing.

RICS believes that the most consistent feature of the housing market over the last 18 months has been a shortage of homes on sale with stock levels on surveyors’ books dropping to lows not seen for at least three decades.

‘Almost a third of over 55s have considered downsizing in the last five years yet we know only seven per cent actually did. If we are to get to grips with this country’s housing crisis, we need to look at supply-led measures across government and the wider industry in order to get the market moving,’ Blackburn added.