Wednesday 19 October 2011

Evicting The Aged

Hot on the heels of the attempt to deal with Dale Farm residents, property speculators in a small way, comes the suggestion that older retired people living either alone or as couples in family sized properties might be encouraged to shove off somewhere else.

It is alleged that this would release a lot of homes for people with greater needs. These are not specified but we can imagine. Some are supposed to be families who cannot at present afford the costs of buying houses.

The delicate issue that a sudden flush of selling might drive the property prices down when the financial authorities are frantically try to prop them up for the sake of their investment returns and all the dodgy mortgages given out in the last decade has not been mentioned.

Additionally, there are all those older people who have been enticed into equity release schemes which effectively can trap them where they are.

The other issue is where all these aged might go to. “Down sizing” is the theme but this is a lot more complicated than it seems. We have already had one major shift in recent years, those who have already cashed in on London area homes to go somewhere else, leading to rocketing prices in rural and seaside locations and putting the locals out of the market.

Some of the older people in turn have been able to borrow money to go in for the “second home” or the “holiday home” capers. There are a lot of these. In how many places at present there are once working class cottages, which are now used for these purposes and often left empty for half the year or more. Many have benefited from tax breaks for one reason or another.

Can you see any of our politicians leading the charge against not just the aged but the connected ownership of second and holiday homes? Just how many homes vacated by the ancients in desirable areas might become only second (or third) or holiday homes for those with access to credit?

You will see where this is leading to. If the market is going to be directed into ensuring the “right” people are buying the homes then this means control over sales, credit and financing. Inevitably, price control might be in the offing with the other matter of the nature of property taxes becoming a major factor.

There could be unforeseen consequences. “Down sizing” means going from larger detached and bigger “semi’s” into smaller homes. The very size of home needed by first time buyers and all those “singles” who are now around struggling to get into the market.

In order to sell those larger places then people with smaller places must have to want them and the higher running costs and mortgages involved. Given the way the economy is going just how many families with middling and lower incomes want to take all that on?

Then there is the element of speculation. If you are trading up you increase the element of risk. In the last three decades increasing the risk has been funded and encouraged on the basis that investment in property is better than saving for income or pensions. We know where all that has led to.

In looking at the aged there are increasing numbers of those of greater age and in need of continuing care and support. These are often people especially reluctant to have to move despite all the difficulties. In any case where do they go to?

At one time the retirement flat sector was an option but this is in serious disarray at present thanks to their property management falling into the hands of big finance intent on maximising income streams, securitising them and engaged in major leverage of all the assets. This has gone badly wrong.

Instead of reducing their worries, work and liabilities people in their 80’s and more are having to watch, calculate and administer in ways far beyond those had they stayed back in their own homes. For some it has become a nightmare.

With both pension incomes and savings income of the old being squeezed giving very many problems at the margins the outgoings now arising from this kind of “down sizing” now make it a much less attractive option in the later years of life.

The same financial and speculative drives have had major impacts on the care home provision and other residential facilities for the old. There has been a surge of scandals and disasters in this sector.

Add to this the major reduction in the number places at a as a consequence of increased regulation and the nature of the property market at the same time of increasing numbers of the old there are further strains. Care in the community means a lot of little trained ladies rushing about in cars to do their best, if they can.

On feature of both care homes and hospitals is the changed culture of “care”. One community nurse of the old school told me that she was tearing her hair trying to tell many care home providers that hydration and nutrition mattered not just feeding the residents on anti-depressants prescribed by “flying doctors”. It is a lesson now being relearned the hard way.

What will our politicians come up with to deal with all this? Holidays in Switzerland with one way tickets?

1 comment:

  1. This article sets out beautifully the case against the IF proposals. Let's hope that this one can be kicked into the long grass (along with IF and other fake charities). Thank you.