Resentment against the over-65s is hotting up in Britain. A group calling itself the Intergenerational Foundation has published a report, Hoarding of Housing, calling on elderly homeowners rattling about by themselves in three- or four-bedroom houses to think about moving on. The government should give them a tax break for doing so.
The report claims that 25 million bedrooms in the UK are empty, and oldies are to blame. One of the bedroom-blockers, mother of three grown children and a widow, agrees with the general idea. She writes in the Telegraph:
According to another report, by the English Housing Survey, 51.5 per cent of over-65s live in homes with two or more bedrooms they don’t need. And we single oldies are the worst squanderers of living space. Half of all single households where the owner is aged over 60 have three spare bedrooms or more. Which is very naughty of us, because there are young families who badly need our homes – children would use those empty bedrooms.
Ah, but could they afford them? asks someone in a comment. The above writer sold her five-storey (really) home to a family with three young children, and bought herself a two-bedroom flat, following her own mother’s example. (A spare bedroom is allowed by the occupancy police, apparently.)
All very good. And she got rid of what amounted to a small museum of family treasures, which is also good, I think, because simplifying your life helps you prepare for letting go of everything ultimately.
But another writer is furious at the IF crowd, not least for saying that the over-65s are “causing real problems” and not paying their own way (which in many cases would be true). Her arguments (apart from, “How dare they!”) include:
* Oldies moving into smaller places will deplete the stock of more affordable housing for younger buyers. Developers will most likely buy the big old houses and knock them down.
* She and her husband are both still working — from home — and need space; they have four grandchildren who regularly use the spare bedrooms.
* They have paid their way and “Everyone I know in this age group is helping and supporting their adult children – and often, their parents as well – even though our own pensions and savings have been decimated by gross mismanagement in the financial markets.”
* As the economy darkens, we need those extra bedrooms because our adult children – and in some cases, grandchildren – may one day move back in.
Intergenerational equity is a very big topic, and one we have to grapple with. Ideas on the housing issue, anyone?