Oh, I do hope Housing Minister Chris Pincher has been reading the Mail’s letters pages this past week.

They have been packed with colourful responses from readers furious at his suggestion that pensioners ‘rattling around’ in large homes should be urged to downsize.

Tone and language are crucial when discussing sensitive subjects. And there is no surer way to get older voters’ backs up than a phrase that intimates they are to blame for clogging up the housing market.

Lack of homes: Research shows that there are millions of pensioners who would be happy to downsize if suitable housing were available. But there isn't

Housing shortage: There is a lack of housing. Research has shown that millions of retired people would like to downsize, if there was affordable housing. There isn’t.

It makes sense on paper to encourage elderly people to move to smaller houses. This would allow for more homes to be available for young families, which would in turn create more options for buyers.

As Mr Pincher pointed out, almost four in ten homes are ‘under-occupied’ — which means they have more bedrooms than residents.

Where are the older homeowners to move? According to research, millions of retired people would consider downsizing if there was suitable housing.

But there isn’t. Each year, only 7,000 senior homes are built and there are few bungalows.

The majority of pensioners cannot afford to live in specialist retirement communities, which offer a variety of luxury amenities such as cinemas and spas. 

They can also be hard to sell leaving families liable for spiralling fees.

You also have to consider the high cost of moving houses. The cost of stamp duty, removal van, solicitor, and estate agent fees can reach tens to thousands of pounds. 

As one Daily Mail reader, Sue Long, from Swindon, said last week: ‘I have calculated it will take us three years to save enough to cover these charges.’

Meanwhile, soaring property prices mean those who’d like to move closer to family or city centre amenities are often priced out.

And the barriers to downsizing are not just economic — they are emotional, too.

Many older people don’t want to leave family homes full of happy memories. These older people may enjoy having more space to entertain their families.

And it’s often not just the house they don’t want to leave; it’s the neighbours and wider local community they know and rely on. Ministers must make the effort to help older adults downsize.

A great place to start is offering generous stamp duties concessions such as the ones being tried in Australia. Also, grants could be used to pay for moving expenses.

In light of rising care costs, the Government must ensure that local councils participate in the discussions to increase the supply of homes suitable for their residents.

In the meantime, if Mr Pincher wants older people to get on board with the idea of downsizing, I’d start by banning rhetoric suggesting it’s merely up to empty nesters to do the right thing and give up their beloved family homes.


We are grateful for your emails and letters in support of our article last week on Barclays branch employees forcing customers to use self service machines. 

It was a disturbing read. One 73-year-old described how they had been marched out of the queue to pay a £2,000 credit card bill, only for the machine to reject it. 

After being repeatedly denied assistance at the counter by staff, another woman claimed she tried to use a different branch.

We passed on your remarks to Barclays in the hope the bank’s senior execs would tell staff to stop using such heavy-handed tactics at once.

However, staff are likely to continue to point customers towards self-service machines, regardless of whether or not they want it. 

It will ultimately be up to the staff to determine if you are at risk or have an adequate reason for using a counter.

Barclays claims it wants to help you all become ‘more self-sufficient’ in this ever-more digital world. It’s so patronizing!

What happened to customer freedom? It is time to end this incessant push to make everyone go online against their will.

For now, I’d suggest you vote with your feet.


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