Downsizing is a valid way to deal with housing woes

I am having difficulty in deciding if Michael Parfect (Planning, 5 December, p16) is pulling our legs in suggesting that planners should desist from unsolicited meddling in people's lives in case it gives us a bad name.

However, there may be a need for a reality check if we believe that planning does not interfere with people's lives. Unfortunately as a profession we are slow to acknowledge the extent to which we have been meddling to the advantage of the haves - the property owners, for whom Parfect is an advocate - and increasingly to the disadvantage of the have-nots, of which the younger generations are in a growing majority.

The people that Parfect wants to protect belong to a generation that has, for the most part, collectively collared this country's wealth while exhausting the world's resources. The Intergenerational Foundation is not alone in identifying this injustice.

Science minister David Willetts has called for a renewal of the social contract between generations. Such a contract should aim to share out this country's resources including housing stock, which by some measures has a mere 50 percent occupancy level. This is at a time of acute homelessness, overcrowding and widespread unaffordability.

The possibly insurmountable difficulties of building sustainably is a further reason to make better use of the existing stock. Building smaller homes designed for elderly singletons or couples to make downsizing attractive as part of a process of releasing larger dwellings that are more suitable for family use is the least coercive and most resource-efficient way to share out existing and new housing. Pursuing this policy is not a craze or contagious disease but good and necessary planning.

Daniel Scharf, Abingdon.

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