The Government is urging other councils to follow the example of Conservative-run Redbridge with a scheme to encourage the elderly to move to smaller properties and allow the council to rent out their homes.
There are 25 million empty bedrooms in England – mostly where elderly couples have remained living in family homes.The Redbridge pilot scheme "Free Space" offers them to the chance to remain owners but to move out. The local authority pays for the cost of moving and charges an "affordable rent" (up t 80% of market rent) the proceeds of which go to the owner ( who also saved money on Council Tax and utility bills by having a smaller property.)
It is proposed that Social Impact Bonds – the scheme to attract private investment for schemes where the social benefit produces a financial return – would be suitable for these schemes.
Of course many, perhaps most, elderly people don't want to move. But the idea is to make it easier for those who do. Housing Minister Grant Shapps told the Daily Telegraph:
“For too long the housing needs of the elderly have been neglected. Older people who should be enjoying their homes have watched helplessly as their properties have become prisons, and many have been forced to sell their homes and move into residential care.
“With nearly a fifth of our population expected to be over 65 by 2020, radical and urgent change is needed to ensure the nation’s housing needs are met.”