'Downsizing' homes should be made easier for pensioners to help with housing crisis, says financial watchdog

A mortgages expert from the Financial Conduct Authority says Britain has a 'real issue with the last-time buyer'

Caroline Mortimer
Friday 18 September 2015 12:01 BST
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Pensioners should be encouraged to free up housing by downsizing
Pensioners should be encouraged to free up housing by downsizing (REX Features)

There should be more help for pensioners wanting to downsize their homes to ease the country’s housing crisis, a financial watchdog has said.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has called on the government to do more to encourage elderly homeowners to sell their homes and move to smaller properties once they no longer needed the space.

Lynda Blackwell, head of mortgages at the FCA, said Britain had a “real issue with the last-time buyer” and suggested ministers may be too preoccupied with getting first-time buyers on the property ladder.

Speaking at a conference hosted by the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association, she said : “We’ve got a big supply issue in this country.

“There’s lots of questions about whether it is right that the Government should focus on the first-time buyer when we’ve got a real issue with the last-time buyer.

“There’s older borrowers who basically pay off their mortgage and sit quite happily in a very big house.

“Does there need to be thought given to trying to encourage older persons to actually move away – build proper housing for retired people in the right places?”

But the call provoked anger from groups who represent the over-50s.

Lisa Harris, from Saga, told the Daily Mail: “In the UK we really do face a housing crisis. However, setting the generations against each other or talking about 'tackling older homeowners' is not just unhelpful, it’s insulting.

“Older homeowners are not 'home blockers'. They are people who have worked hard all their lives to live in the homes they love.”

It comes as the annual ING International Survey on Homes and Mortgages reported that 89 per cent of first-time buyers agreed it was getting harder and harder to get on the property ladder.

The study also found that house prices rose by per 8 per cent between early 2014 and early 2015 - eight times the European average.

Additional reporting by PA

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