Tomorrow’s homes today

In 1961, Sir William Parker Morris published Homes for Today and Tomorrow, this became the guide to building new social homes over the next two decades. Just as it is said that much of sociology is a debate with the ghost of Marx, much of the current debate about housing standards is couched in their relationship to ideas set out in 1961.

Over the last almost 60 years the way people live has changed, the technology we have in our homes was inconceivable in the post war years, the size and structure of households has evolved and people live longer with many more active years after retirement. The way that homes are designed perhaps has not kept up with these changes: there is a mismatch between what is available and what people aspire to.

One of the points of challenge when the shortfall in the number of homes compared to the number of households is highlighted is under occupation; some people have more rooms than they need whilst others have too few rooms for their family. The bedroom tax is a crude way of trying to address this issue, but one of its flaws is that many people value their extra space and are prepared to pay for it.

Recently when thinking about this issue I was struck by the lack of real choice for ‘empty nesters’ and the risks that they take in foregoing extra space in their homes. That is before there is any discussion about the costs of moving and the consequences of a wrong choice.

In contrast to the TV programme Location, Location, Location, I suggest that there are three important things to consider:

  • Location
  • Size and adaptability
  • Affordability

For some, an ideal retirement involves moving to the coast or country, but for many that means moving from established networks, children, friends or healthcare. The rural retreat is fine when driving is not an issue and intermittent public transport does not matter. Even transitory changes in health, such as cataracts that are readily fixable when the condition has developed enough, can mean that driving is not possible for a period.

What seems an ideal bijou cottage may become cramped if a child needs to come home for a period or the steep stairs lose their charm when grandchildren are visiting.

One of the further issues not necessarily the capital cost of a property, though in popular areas that is an issue and one to be discussed at another time, the cost of moving and the cost of rectifying a mistake.

Without being prescriptive about solutions there is a an argument that thought could be given to intensifying development in suburban areas, looking to put small groups of homes into neighbourhoods that are designed to Lifetime Homes standards but are externally just ordinary homes that can accommodate changes in household needs through design and adaptability. There is growing interest in the concept of lifetime leases, where there is a calculation of how much your accommodation costs linked to an actuarial evaluation of your life expectancy, the longer that you are likely to occupy the property the more you pay for it as premium for a lease. Moving on from that concept there may scope to think about a trial period, living in the new property for say six months, before a long-term deal is struck, giving a route back if the move to a different property or place does not work.


Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Judith Martin
Judith Martin
8 years ago

Speaking as an empty nester, whose rooms are often occupied by friends and family, I’d say it’s not even that we’re prepared to pay for the extra space we have and enjoy. We mostly bought before prices went insane, have paid off our mortgages, and have the hugely unfair benefit of skewed council tax. None of our friends could now buy the houses we bought 30-odd years ago, if we had the same jobs we had then.
Since we’re clearly not going to see a mansion tax in the near future, nor probably even a council tax revaluation, at the least there need to be several more bands at the top of the list. Corbyn’s Labour policies I think (it may have been the Lib Dems – sorry) include a couple more bands but that’s not nearly enough. And something needs to be done about the fact that a Band D in a poor borough costs more than Band D in Kensington and Chelsea.
Most of us take no pleasure in the existence of Generation Rent (apart from the buy-to-letters), and worry about our own offspring. But if I were to move, by the time I’d paid agent’s fees, legal fees, stamp duty on the new house, moving costs etc. etc. there wouldn’t be much change left to help those offspring. And – and this is happening all around me where I live in the south east – the only people who might buy my house are probably bankers commuting to London. That does more to change the social makeup of an area than us staying put.

Tony Hutchinson
Tony Hutchinson
8 years ago

Thanks for taking the time to comment. We are in a very similar situation. There is no option to downsize and realise capital to help our children that does entail moving away from them, creating a new buy to let opportunity.

Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top