Great British Bungalow sell off: 1 in 4 forced council house sales could be bungalows

3rd Mar 2016

Older people could be hit disproportionately hard by Government plans to sell off high-value council owned homes, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reveals today.

The Housing and Planning Bill, which will have its crucial reading in the House of Lords later today, will compel Local Authorities to sell off high value housing stock as it becomes vacant to fund the Right to Buy extension for Housing Association tenants.

But new analysis shows that high demand for bungalows will mean that homes lived in by older people, in particular those who have a sickness or disability, are almost three times more likely to be sold off and will be more difficult to replace. The numbers are drawn from Understanding the likely poverty impacts of the extension of Right to Buy to housing association tenants, a report written for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation by researchers at the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research in Cambridge University.

The report finds that Bungalows make up 9% per cent of Local Authority owned housing, but are likely to make up 25% of high value property sales due to their higher cost and more frequent vacancies. Researchers estimate this will result in the loss of 15,300 Local Authority owned bungalows in the next five years – one in fifteen of the total number in England. 

This loss will have a disproportionate effect on older tenants. One in five older people currently lives in a bungalow, a proportion which increases steadily from age 55 to 75. This figure rises to one in four for older person households containing someone who is sick or disabled.   Variations in house prices across the UK mean that Local Authorities have different proportions of high value housing stock, and that some areas are likely to have to sell far more homes than others. Wealthier areas in London and the home counties are likely to have to sell off more of their homes, including bungalows.

Low supply and high demand for bungalows from households of all ages means that they are typically worth more than houses or flats of the same size, making them more likely to be eligible to be sold under the proposed rules. Bungalows also become vacant more frequently than other housing types due to moves into residential care and the fact many tenants move in late in life. 

The extra land needed and higher cost of building new one storey homes means that in many cases it will not be possible for Local Authorities to replace bungalows like-for-like. Coupled with the increased likelihood of bungalows being sold off under Right to Buy, this means that elderly, sick and disabled people, who are more likely to require this kind of housing, are likely to be disproportionally affected by the proposed rules.

Brian Robson, Policy and Research Manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “The Housing Bill will reduce the number of affordable homes at a time of an acute housing crisis. The Great British bungalow sell-off will make things worse for elderly and disabled tenants who are trying to find suitable, affordable accommodation.

“An adequate supply of social housing is essential. 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. Unless changes to the Bill are made, older people and people who are sick or disabled will be particularly badly hit. Creating more homes for sale is a vital piece of the puzzle, but these must not come at the expense of vulnerable tenants”

Anna Clarke, Senior Research Associate at the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research, said: "The government have yet to confirm exactly how they will determine the charges they levy on local authorities, which they can recoup by selling high value properties, and until they do it is very hard for authorities to plan financially. However, the thresholds for defining what is a high value home which were proposed in a Conservative party press release suggested that it would be relative to other homes in the same region with the same number of bedrooms. Bungalows take up more space than other homes with the same number of bedrooms, so they tend to be higher in value."

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is calling on the Government to protect older people and those with disabilities by making bungalows and sheltered and supported housing exempt from the calculation of the levy placed on the High Value Sales initiative, which would allow the stock to be protected. This would follow a precedent set by Northern Ireland, which exempts bungalows and ground-floor flats from the House Sales Scheme, a similar initiative to the Right to Buy.