Home truths! Our housing market should empower aging population to be independent

4th October 2022
By: Co-Ownership

Northern Ireland’s population is becoming increasingly older, with NISRA reporting that by mid 2045 one in four people will be over the age of 65, up from the current frequency of one in six. We in Co-Ownership have been considering this and our newest product, Co-Own for Over 55s, has been purposefully designed in response to this changing age structure.

It’s very common for people to feel that their current home no longer suits their lifestyle. For instance, a two-storey property may pose issues for someone who has developed mobility issues. Some people may feel their home requires too much maintenance or is too expensive to run, whilst others may feel they would have a better quality of life if they were closer to family, a community or better transport links. When we consider that the alternative may be that a person continues to live in a home that has a negative impact on their wellbeing as it causes them anxiety or stress, it is important to find housing solutions for such people.

The reality is there are lots of reasons why moving to a different, more suitable, home in later life makes sense. However, sometimes the gap between the value of where someone is living and their desired home is too great.

This is where Co-Own for Over 55s can help. Funded by the Department for Communities, it supports those aged over 55 to move to a home that better suits them as they get older. Customers use the equity from the sale of their current home or savings to fund their share of their new home. They pay a small rent on the share of their new home that Co-Ownership owns and can choose a new build or existing property anywhere in Northern Ireland up to a maximum value of £190,000.

The world is changing, and technology is contributing positively to how we live. We can turn on the light, open the blinds or adjust the temperature of a room from a remote device. Other technology, such as cloud-based voice software allows us to order our shopping, make a phone or video call from the comfort of our seat. All of this combined supports the idea that we can live comfortable and independent lives for longer in a more suitable home.

A home is more than four walls. Where we live is intrinsically linked to our physical and mental wellbeing, and everyone’s wellbeing is important regardless of age. We are acutely aware of the many obstacles facing first time buyers such as a shortage of supply, and in designing our Co-Own for Over 55s product we wanted to ensure a holistic approach. Co-Own for Over 55s empowers people to proactively plan for their future and live independently for longer and also each time an Over 55’s customer chooses to move, it frees up a property for a first time buyer or family.

And whilst this is a positive step forward, a more holistic approach when it comes to Northern Ireland’s housing stock – an approach that considers the full life cycle – would provide a more stable and secure property market that works more efficiently. New housing developments should incorporate various dwelling styles from two-storey detached and semi-detached to bungalows and apartments. This would ensure that we always have an appropriate supply of homes to suit everyone’s needs.

At Co-Ownership we continue to work to provide innovative solutions and advocate for quality and affordable housing for everyone. After all, a house is not a home unless it provides comfort, safety and enjoyment.

Written by Charles O’Neill, Director of Product Development at Co-Ownership.