UK housing crisis driving a “geographic wedge” between the generations

Tony Gosling tony at
Mon Sep 19 19:29:34 BST 2016

Housing crisis is weakening the bonds between generations
Study finds British communities are increasingly segregated by age, 
leading to a lack of empathy and growing strain on the NHS
Fearn and Vicky Shaw
The housing crisis is driving a "geographic wedge" between the 
generations, weakening the bond between different age groups, 
according to new research. The study found that the rise in "age 
segregation", caused by the lack of affordable housing for younger 
people, is damaging our society.

Across England and Wales, the number of neighbourhoods in which half 
the population is aged over 50 has risen rapidly since 1991, the 
research from the Intergenerational Foundation (IF) found. In 1991 
there were just 65 such neighbourhoods. This had risen to 485 by 
2014, 60 per cent of which were rural. But within urban areas, older 
people, children and young adults are also living increasingly separately.

"The housing crisis is driving a geographic wedge between the 
generations," the research said. "It means that older and younger 
generations are increasingly living apart."

Since 1991, the median average age of neighbourhoods near the centre 
of cities has generally fallen by between five and 10 years, the report said.

The report identified Cardiff, with its large student population, as 
"the most age segregated city in England and Wales". Brighton, Leeds, 
Nottingham, Sheffield and Southampton were also identified by the 
report as age segregation  "hotspots".

In Cardiff and Brighton, nearly a quarter of the population would 
need to move home in order to eliminate age segregation.

Surging house prices and a lack of choice for buyers have meant many 
people in the younger generation have had to move to find affordable 
housing close to employment. Younger generations are more likely rent 
than own, but older generations also face a "last-time buying crisis" 
due to a general lack of supply and a lack of affordable suitable 
accommodation to downsize into, the report said.

Living apart in this way is making it harder for younger and older 
generations to look after each other, putting a bigger strain on the 
NHS. Age segregation also reduces people's opportunities to find work 
and makes it harder for people to see different generations' 
perspectives, it said.

Angus Hanton, co-founder of the think tank, said segregating 
communities by age was fostering "a lack of understanding of, and 
empathy for, other generations."

Nigel Wilson, chief executive officer of Legal & General, which 
supported the research, said that the housing crisis had created "an 
intergenerationally unfair society".

"We need to take bold steps to reverse the negative trends of the 
last 30 years," he added. "This will involve not only an increase in 
housing supply of 100,000 a year of all tenures, but also a step up 
in investment in modern infrastructure and modern industries to 
create the jobs of the future."

To break down divides between generations, the report recommended 
that it should become easier for older generations to subdivide their 
homes where they already live, to encourage intergenerational living, 
as well as building new, smaller homes suitable for older people to 
downsize into and free up larger properties for young families.

New, mixed housing developments should also be built that different 
generations are able to share and the building of housing 
developments that are only suitable for one age group should be 
avoided, the report said.

The report used figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) 
to make its findings.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: 
"Building the homes that communities need is an absolute priority for 
the Government and we have delivered nearly 900,000 since the end of 2009.

"We've also set out the largest housebuilding programme since the 
1970s, doubling the housing budget so we can build a million extra homes."

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