More than a million people are on the waiting list for homes, yet British houses have millions of unused bedrooms. Too many properties are energy-inefficient and expensive to heat. Too many people have no home, or one that is not adequate for their needs.
These are complex problems with no easy solutions.
However, one positive step the Chancellor could take is to remove or reduce stamp duty for older people who want to downsize.
That, too, would free up housing for younger generations.
Moving is expensive and being forced to pay stamp duty to buy a new home for retirement only adds to the barriers that keep older people in properties that are no longer suitable.
The Chancellor could take is to remove or reduce stamp duty for older people who want to downsize, writes Sir Nigel Wilson
Of course, such a change could pose practical difficulties for the Treasury. But they could be overcome if axing stamp duty – or reducing it – was limited to those who move into an ‘integrated retirement community’ with self-contained accommodation, communal facilities, care and domestic services.
Also, there could be a minimum qualifying age.
Some may object that it would be unfair for older people to be given a free pass on stamp duty.
But the dysfunction in our housing market affects everyone.
Such a change would create an additional incentive to drive up the quality of housing stock for all of us.
Sir Nigel Wilson (pictured) is group chief executive of Legal & General, which manages £1.3 trillion of assets
When people downsize, they typically release cash that can be used to support family members such as grandchildren, and help the next generation on to the housing ladder.
Getting the market to work better at every step of the ladder is critical for all. Our housing stock needs to reflect the changing needs that people have throughout their lives. And to achieve this, we should set ourselves bold objectives to build more housing for the elderly.
We need to construct 30,000 energy-efficient homes a year in areas where the need is greatest.
We also need to encourage people to plan for their later years, and to incentivise them through the tax system when appropriate.
Freeing people who have worked all their lives from stamp duty if they want to move to a retirement community would be a great start. If we open this door, it will lead to others, and that would encourage more ideas that can deliver even better results for the economy and society.
This would be good for everyone. Cutting stamp duty for later-life home movers is not an expense but an investment that should more than pay for itself.
- Sir Nigel Wilson is group chief executive of Legal & General, which manages £1.3 trillion of assets