Downsizing? But where to?

A row of flat front row homes in blue and white. Downsizing? But where to?The idea of downsizing is appealing to empty-nesters. But where can they go?  The biggest barrier to downsizing is finding a suitable home in the right location. Many empty nesters just want a smaller home and yard. Governments have a vested interest in older Australians having a home in which it is safe to grow old. It’s cost effective for everyone.

Sometimes it isn’t the home they want to downsize – it’s the garden maintenance. ‘Empty’ bedrooms do not necessarily mean that a home is under-utilised.  This is a crude measure because spare bedrooms are needed as guest and hobby rooms. Spending time at home means the home has to do more. A home too small limits options.

An expanse of green lawn in a suburban back yard.The Conversation discusses these issues and has links to well-researched reports. The title of the article is, Half of over-55s are open to downsizing – if only they find homes that suit them.

A similar article was published earlier in The Conversation titled, Lack of housing choice frustrates would-be downsizers.

When it comes to house size, Bruce Judd and colleagues from UNSW found that retirees generally want three bedrooms for flexibility of lifestyle. Some for visiting family and looking after grandchildren. Others need room for hobbies or a study. Some couples sleep separately for health reasons. Typically, retirees spend more time at home now that they are not working, so space becomes even more important.  

Baby Boomers defy predictions.

Facade of a large two storey home commonly called a McMansion Housing experts predicted “the great senior sell-off”. But baby boomers aren’t downsizing – they are staying put.

Mimi Kirk in a CityLab article looked at new research from Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies that discusses issues related to housing type, affordability and the different expectations of millennials and boomers. Millennials are generally uninterested in the style of their parents’ homes. So there goes the myth that boomers are (selfishly) holding onto homes that millennials could buy. 

Policy makers think that downsizing is largely about finances and homes being too large to suit ageing in place. But the evidence is something else. Research findings put to bed some of the myths younger policy makers have about older people and their ideas on housing.

“…high cost of new multi-storey apartments means that householders don’t necessarily have enough money from the sale of their larger family house to buy an apartment, particularly after stamp duty, bank and real estate agent fees, and moving costs are included.”  AHURI report, 2018.

Suitable housing in the future?

In the future, people living in Victoria, ACT, Queensland, NT and Tasmania will have the benefit of universal design features in new homes. However, the NSW, WA and SA governments have decided that this important change to the building code isn’t necessary. To keep up to date on the latest, follow the ANUHD website and join their network of supporters. The 2022 edition of the National Construction code will have the updated design features. 


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