How to turn your home into your retirement fund

Happy owners at Audley Retirement Villages in United Kingdom

The National Housing Federation recently published a report which revealed that 8.4 million people in England are living in unaffordable, insecure or unsuitable housing.

The main focus, and rightly so, was on those in unaffordable accommodation, but the research also identified 1.7 million people who are in unsuitable housing, which includes older people stuck in homes which they cannot get around.

It is this group that holds the key to unlocking the UK’s housing market. Policy has to date been largely solely focused on building more and more houses, with an emphasis on starter homes to encourage first time buyers.

As a result, there has not been adequate attention paid to building housing that supports older homeowners who may be faced with a large family home, a low income and growing concerns over how to fund future care bills.

Leaving the family home and 'downsizing' can be a wrench for many, but if the option is to move to a brand new, purpose-built property, which is part of a vibrant and rich community, the prospect is far less daunting. Especially when the equity released from the sale of their home not only enables them to buy a new retirement property, but crucially supplements their income.

If we can encourage older homeowners to consider retirement living, whatever their financial means, it will also help trigger tax receipts for the treasury through stamp duty and help keep a lid on house prices as transaction volumes rise. This will also help younger families, currently stuck in flats and starter homes, move up the ladder as more stock comes to the market.

Policy makers have for too long been looking in the wrong place. We need to start sooner, encouraging those in their fifties to think in the longer term about where they want to be and how they want to live. How early is too early to retire?

We need to empower people to make the decisions that support their lifestyle wishes.

But we need to offer the range of specialist retirement living options to allow them to fulfil those wishes. That is only possible if construction targets for specialist retirement villages are specified by the government, and planning policy is supportive to make those targets achievable.

To give people the chance to lead the best later life they can was the very reason I founded Audley over 20 years ago and it remains the driving force behind the business today.

The growth of the sector has been both proof that this vision was valid and, for the millions who will stand to benefit, the reward.