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Housing policy must avoid age-based segregation, charity warns

British society is becoming increasingly divided along age lines as younger people are unable to afford housing, a new report shows.

The report, from the Intergenerational Foundation, shows that between 1981 and 2014 the median age of rural areas rose almost twice as rapidly as the median age of urban ones.

It suggested this was partly because younger people can no longer afford to buy their own homes or move to rural and suburban areas.

In Cardiff, the most age-segregated city in England and Wales, more than 30% of young adults, 25% of retirees and 15% of children would need to move to achieve an age-balanced population. Similarly, in Brighton, more than 25% of young adults would need to move.

In 1991, there were just two neighbourhoods where over half the population was aged over 50. By 2014, this had risen to 430, 70% of which are in rural areas.

Government policy risks reinforcing this division, the report said. Initiatives such as starter homes risk creating whole areas of housing aimed mainly at one generation, whilst social policies such as anti-social behaviour initiatives aimed at young people reinforce the association of certain areas with certain generations.

The Intergenerational Foundation said that age segregation is a problem because it contributes between divisions between age groups, makes it harder to find care for the elderly, and puts predominantly youthful districts at risk of political marginalisation.

To combat the problem, it said planning authorities should make combatting age segregation a specific focus of housing policy.

This should also include making it easier for older people to subdivide their homes if they want to, creating flats which can be rented to younger people, and making it easier for older people to downsize in properties within the city centre.

The government recently announced new funding for planning initiatives which include public health concerns as part of the Healthy Towns scheme.

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