Business

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

Co-Own for Over 55s supports people to move to a home that better suits them as they get older
Charles O'Neill

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.

Co-Ownership has 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 or needs. 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.

The alternative may be that a person continues to live in a home that has a negative impact on their wellbeing, a home that causes them anxiety or stress, and so 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 for people to be able to make the move.

This is where Co-Own for Over 55s (details at www.co-ownership.org) can help.

Funded by the Department for Communities, the product supports those 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 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 from a remote device. Cloud-based voice software allows us to do things like order our shopping from the comfort of our seat. All of this supports the idea that we can live comfortably and independently for longer if the house fits our needs.

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 in 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, but crucially each time an Over 55's customer chooses to move, it frees up a property for a first time buyer or young family.

This is a positive step forward and reflects the need for a new 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 for everyone.

New housing developments should incorporate various dwelling styles from two-storey detached and semi-detached to bungalows to apartments.

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.

:: Charles O'Neill is director of product development at Co-Ownership.