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Half of homes ‘under-occupied’

Written by: John Fitzsimons
Over two-thirds of over-65s have two or more unoccupied rooms in their home, but many can't afford to downsize
Half of homes ‘under-occupied’

More than half of owner occupied homes in England are under-occupied according to the latest English Housing Survey.

This is defined as a home with two or more spare bedrooms, with 54 per cent of owner occupied properties falling into this category.

The report, compiled by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) found that of the nine million under-occupied homes in England in 2017-18, 7.9 million are owner occupied.

This is particularly common among pensioners too, with two-thirds of homeowners aged 65 or over living in an under-occupied home.

In contrast, overcrowding is far less common, with just one per cent of owner occupiers living in overcrowded homes, compared to six per cent in the private rented sector and eight per cent in the social rented sector.

Chris Sykes, mortgage consultant at Private Finance, suggested that stamp duty costs are discouraging older home owners from downsizing, leaving them with homes too large for their needs but too costly to give up.

He added: “To free up housing stock and re-energise the property market, we’re calling on the UK government to introduce a stamp duty exemption for last-time buyers.

“Minimising the tax liabilities for older generations could encourage and enable them to finally downsize, freeing up housing stock and thereby helping to fix the supply issue that has hindered the market for so long.”

Housing costs

The study found that mortgagors on average spent 18 per cent of their gross weekly joint income on mortgage costs.

More than a quarter of mortgagors (28 per cent) spent less than 10 per cent of their joint income on mortgage costs, while just five per cent have mortgage payments exceeding 40 per cent of their joint income.

By comparison, social renters were devoting 30 per cent of their joint income on their rent, rising to 41 per cent for private renters.

There were significant regional differences however. Mortgage borrowers within London and the South East spent an average of 21 per cent and 20 per cent respectively of their income on repayments, compared to just 15 per cent in Yorkshire and the Humber, and the North East.

Varying deposits

The survey found that more than a quarter (27 per cent) of deposits were between 10 per cent and 20 per cent in 2017-18, with almost one in four buying with a deposit of 10 per cent or less.

While on average the deposit was worth 27 per cent of the property’s overall purchase price, there were again stark regional variances.

The MHCLG pointed out that regions which had the highest proportions of income spent on housing costs tended to have smaller deposits, with the highest average deposit to purchase price rations found in the South West (30 per cent) and East (29 per cent).

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