FCA defends elderly downsizing comment

Sarah Davidson

September 18, 2015

The regulator issued the defence after comments made by mortgage sector manager Lynda Blackwell at yesterday’s Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association debate were taken out of context by the Daily Mail.

Blackwell said there was an issue with the last time mover and questioned whether the government focus on supporting the first-time buyer was actually in the right place.

However the Mail reported that Blackwell had suggested that older homeowners were blocking the housing market by refusing to downsize.

The Mail suggested that Blackwell claimed: “Older homeowners who ‘sit quite happily in a very big house’ should be given more encouragement to sell up and downsize.”

What Blackwell said was: “There are lots of questions about whether it’s right that the government should focus on the first-time buyer when in fact we have a real issue about the last time buyer.

“There are borrowers who pay off the mortgage who are sitting in a very big house: does there need to be thought given to how we build more appropriate housing for retired people in the right places.

“There is a big debate to be had about whether the government’s focus is actually in the right place.”

In a statement following today’s story in the Daily Mail an FCA spokeswoman said: “These comments, which were made as part of a panel discussion at a trade body event, don’t represent FCA policy.

“However, at a recent conference on mortgage policy organised by the FCA we did start a debate about the aging population, how people want to live in retirement and the role mortgages and other financial products have to play in that.

“This is an important discussion to have and our job is look at the products and markets that are developing to ensure they work for consumers.”

Peter Williams, executive director of IMLA, said: “We are greatly concerned about misleading reports of comments from our Great Mortgage Debate yesterday, which were in context of a broad discussion about the UK’s housing supply issue and the need for a joined-up strategy across all ages and tenures.

“The aim was to raise important questions that must be considered about the types of support needed at both ends of the property ladder, including schemes like rent-to-buy and options for ‘last time buyers’ – that is, people who want to think about downsizing in later life but who are often put off by a lack of suitable properties and the costs involved.

“It is vital these questions are addressed in the round, so that – as well as building more homes – the UK builds the right kind of homes to support the whole population.

“Today’s Daily Mail report both trivialised and sensationalised comments made by members of the panel and that is regrettable.

“Public debate about housing issues is important and the Daily Mail should aim to contribute to that rather more constructively than by running scare stories and offering misleading reports of what was said.”

Sign up to our daily email