In the UK there is currently a huge shortage of affordable housing, and this is having a severely detrimental effect on service men and women when they are making the transition from the military to civilian life. Jobs for ex Forces personnel are also in short supply, meaning our heroes are in greater danger of falling into debt or homelessness. The step from military life to civilian life is not an easy one, and all too often everyday issues like housing, benefits, employment and health can become stumbling blocks for ex-military servicemen and women.
It’s an unfortunate fact that many military service leavers are homeless on departure from the Forces and are not put forward as a priority for emergency accommodation despite the sacrifices they may have made for their country. Help for soldiers can be found in a number of places, but there are no government-funded schemes to assist with the specific problems service families come up against when looking for housing.
Lord Best, social housing leader in the House of Lords put forward a plan to solve the housing crisis by building 100,000 retirement and extra-care homes every year in order to provide older citizens with better-suited accommodation to live in. In turn this will mean their older, larger properties will return to the market, providing first-time buyers (many of whom will be ex-military servicemen and women) with affordable housing. Service families would benefit hugely from a scheme like this.
The plan is not without its issues though; the initial investment required to build such a large number of homes would require a huge amount of risk from the construction industry’s point of view. The scheme would also rely on older homeowners being ready and willing to move house, a stressful change that many would not be keen to take on or even may not be physically able to. There would also need to be a cultural change in the way people feel about their properties, forgoing sentiment for practicality. This, unfortunately, would be nearly impossible to encourage and despite new housing being potentially more practical for the ageing population, the emotional attachments people have to their homes cannot be overlooked.
The housing crisis in the UK is a complex issue, and one that cannot be solved by simple solutions, however what this proposal from Lord Best shows is that without forward-thinking solutions like his, the problem will never be overcome.