Saturday 22 October 2011

Britain is no country for old men who live in large houses with spare bedrooms

This is house in which my wife and I have lived for over 20 years and we are, apparently, along with many other old people, 'home hoarders'.

The think tank 'Intergenerational Foundation', which purports to be a 'non-party political charity campaigning for the rights of younger and future generations in British policy making', has published a report which documents how a process of death and renewal is not happening after a dramatic rise in life expectancy and a refusal by many older people to downsize when their children have grown up and gone.

This epidemic of 'house squatting' by the over-55's is the main reason there are so many family homes with only one or two people rattling around in them.

According to the Report, 'Hoarding of Housing', my wife and I are :

* among 16 million people who live in 'underoccupied' homes, equivalent to 37% of the total housing stock in England and we have some of the 25 million empty bedrooms.

* party to the 'lifecycle of housing' breaking down, as we hoard the family home and while we may think we are keeping an 'asset' for future generations, in reality 'the negative impact is felt primarily among the young who face higher lifetime levels of debt and smaller living space as a result.'

* in the group which should be considered for 'nudge policies', such as the withdrawal of some universal benefits if our house is worth over £500,000 and the abolition of council tax concessions if we lived in single occupation.

* should be discouraged from hoarding and made to realise that someone further down the generational chain is suffering as a consequence.

Is it reasonable that the report's co-author, Matthew Griffiths, should say that :

'It is perfectly understandable that retired people' like us 'cling to' our 'home long after it has outlived its usefulness as a place to bring up a family in, but there are profound social consequences of' our 'actions which are now causing real problems in a country where new house-building is almost non-existent.'

So now Britain is a country filled with selfish old men, like me, occupying housing space they don't need and with little or no social conscience.

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