Some relatives of ours ran a laundry in Fulham and lived in Ellerby Road, one of those so chi chi streets that tuns down to the river from the Fulham Palace Road. You’ve probably walked down it if you’ve ever been to Craven Cottage.
They died a couple of years ago and the house that their family had occupied since the turn of the century was sold, it’s a four bedroom affair. The Stammers had managed a local laundry and were reasonably prosperous, though they considered themselves working class.
The house sold for a couple of million pounds and is now lived in by Oscar, the Brazilian and Chelsea footballer.
I thought of the Stammers when I read research by Legal & General and the Centre for Economic and Business Research
The Stammers wanted to die where they’d lived, they had a strong family network in Fulham and the house that they did was fit for their children and grandchildren.
My parents still live in Shaftesbury, one by one my brothers have returned to live with them. As they grow old they are supported by their children. The same can be said for Stella’s family who live in Winchester. While the grandparents grow old, the houses grow less fit for purpose. Living rooms are converted into bedrooms as the demands of stairs prove too great. Families adapt to change but the properties remain their integrity.
I suspect that these properties will pass through generations, something that did not happen with the Stammers. I have friends who live opposite the house, they now are friends with Oscar as they were with the Stammers but with the house renovated for re-sale- the property is no longer a home, it is a residence.
The research mentioned above suggests that if the
“3.3 million over-55s who are looking to downsize could find suitable homes, the shift would unlock 18pc of Britain’s property market”
Demos, the think-tank, last year found that 1pc of Britons in their 60s are living in tailor-made retirement properties, compared to 17pc in the US.
L&G found that found that the over-55s they talked to who wanted to downsize wanted to be close to family and friends, which was chosen by 32pc of respondents, be near their current neighbourhood (18pc), have easy access to healthcare (16pc) and live somewhere located near shops (10pc).
I suspect that these people are coming to terms with the same issues, they are looking for residences which may become homes, but are more likely a place of transition.
It is a constant topic of conversation with my parents. A few of their friends have moved into sheltered accommodation or the kind of independent living accommodation provided by firms like McCarthy and Stone. Many are in nursing homes either because they have no means (and are sponsored by the State) or because they have the means to stay at home but have no one to look after them.
As my parents face old age and its challenges to mind and body, the family property is central to these conversations. It is, for those they know, variously a source of argument – an inheritance issue, or a source of comfort – a link to the past.
I am concerned when I visit old people who have either chosen or been chosen to move out of the family home. It is a huge break for many. It’s a break that the Stammers could not make , I will do all I can to ensure that my parents stay where they are, so will Stella. This is not for nostalgic reasons, it is because our parents do not want the disruption of down-sizing.
The social consequences of us all owning our own homes are not entirely positive. Four of five home families may have grabbed large amounts of housing wealth as properties have shot up, but the diaspora of the children, can leave the parents old frail and abandoned. Too often, downsizing is a euphemism for eviction.
My criticism of the Legal & General research is that it assumes a simple social model that sees old people’s worlds contracting around them as they retreat into smaller more appropriate properties.
But the lack of affordable property need not be a bad thing. The Tappers have come home to look after the parents, the property is alive again and Geoffrey and Phillipa are more fulfilled for it.
The Freedbodys, who own the boatyard where I live have never put their house on the market. They have lived in the Mill House since the 17th century.
Maybe we should be looking again at the social models we have created for those in old age and ask, rather than see the £820 bn of outsized housing stock as a challenge, whether it may not be an opportunity.