Elderly to be most affected by ‘bungalow sell off plan’, foundation cautions

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has warned that plans compelling councils to sell off high-value social housing is likely to disproportionately affect older and disabled people.

The new plans mean that 15,300 council-owned bungalows in England could be sold off by the year 2021. However, ministers have maintained that councils can decide not to sell such properties if they consider them to meet a ‘particular need’ or if they will be hard to replace.

The changes are part of the government’s new Housing and Planing Bill, aimed at helping more people become home owners, and is due to go before the House of Lords.

If passed, local authorities will be able to sell expensive properties which become vacant to ‘ensure that the money locked up in high value vacant housing stock will be reinvested in building new homes that better meet the needs of local people including older residents’.

However, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has protested the move, claiming that ministers should make bungalows and sheltered housing exempt from the initiative. If the government takes on the foundation’s recommendations, England will follow the example of Northern Ireland where councils do not have to sell bungalows or ground floor flats.

The report contended that high demand for bungalows mean they were almost three times more likely to be sold off and would be harder to replace because of the amount of land required. Figures also showed that bungalows made up 25 per cent of high value property in social housing.

Brian Robson, from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, warned that the imposition of the Housing Bill would reduce the number of affordable homes at a time of an ‘acute housing crisis’.

He said: ”We risk holding a great British bungalow sell-off that will make things worse for older and disabled tenants who are trying to find suitable, affordable accommodation.

"The increasing reliance on costly, insecure tenancies in the private-rented sector to house families on low incomes will only serve to trap more people in poverty."

However, a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government claimed that local authorities would still have the power to decide against selling a property ‘if it met a particular need and would be difficult to replace’.

He said: "Planning policy already requires local plans to take the housing needs of older and disabled people into account. Where there is a local need, councils can set much clearer standards for accessible and wheelchair-adaptable new homes.”