The Too Little, Too Late? Housing for an ageing population report, highlights the key factors which have “created a dysfunctional housing market” where many older people are unable to find appropriate homes.
It also highlighted that developers need to change their priorities to build more properties for older people as this population grows far faster than suitable homes.
Underpinning the approach should be a new government strategy on housing for older people to be established as a key part of the housing mix, the report noted.
It should call for a joined-up approach between departments dealing with housing and health, with a cross-departmental mechanism to reconcile differences and identify gaps.
The report noted that far too few dwellings were being built that cater for older people.
Retirement housing has only accounted for about 125,000, or two per cent, of all new homes built since 2000, but each year around 700,000 people turn 65 years of age.
With the number of households growing more quickly than the population, average household size is set to continue its decline, causing increasingly inefficient use of the housing stock, it continued. The authors projected that the number of ‘surplus’ bedrooms exceed 20 million by 2040, with 60 per cent of them in older households.
And with a new policy on social care due to be unveiled later this year, this should acknowledge that the present policy of supporting people in their own homes scattered through mainstream housing may not be affordable in the long run.
Other recommendations were:
In line with the national strategy, local authorities should be required to have a plan for retirement housing, including identifying appropriate sites.
The NHS should acknowledge the benefits to health and wellbeing of living in retirement communities, which are largely ignored in its strategy and in planning services for older people.
The government should promote the benefits of downsizing and incentivise people to do it before social care is needed.
Last-time buyers should be put on an equal footing with first time buyers with property purchases of up to £300,000 nil-banded.
House-building priorities need to change to cater for this market.
Models that defer costs until housing equity is released should be encouraged and monitored for transparency of costs to residents and returns to investors.
The financial aspects of downsizing may be complicated so independent guidance should be available to cover all aspects of the purchase process.
Retirement communities should aim to be carbon neutral and use renewable energy. Retrofitting retirement dwellings should be supported by the taxpayer
CSFI co-director Jane Fuller noted that despite the demographic imperative of adding 180,000 over-65 households each year, retirement home building peaked before 1990 and has fallen significantly since then.
“In the past decade, little more than 7,000 units have been built each year, on average, and the stock of 750,000 is well under three per cent of the UK total. The shortfall is shocking,” she said.
“This report calls for action from the public and private sectors. National and local housing programmes should include specific targets for dwellings designed to cater for older people.
“Planning permission must be easier to obtain. The demand is there as baby boomers seek to redeploy housing equity into smaller, more convenient homes with access to services,” she added.
Planning powers needed
Local Government Association housing spokesman councillor David Renard said councils want to continue working with developers to offer suitably designed and affordable specialist housing.
“However as part of the recovery, councils will need to be given greater planning powers and resources to hold developers to account, ensuring they build the right homes in the right places with the required infrastructure needed by different groups within local communities,” he said.
“But it is crucial to acknowledge that the majority of older people will live in existing housing.
“The government needs to continue to invest in supporting the adaptation of homes to meet the needs of people as their circumstances change, keep older people safe and independent in their homes and prevent avoidable admissions to hospital and care homes.”
Equity Release Council (ERC) CEO Jim Boyd said the body supported the call for a more joined-up approach between government departments dealing with housing and health for older people.
“We welcome the CSFI’s report and have long called for ways for government to better support downsizing,” he said.
“This will give people in later life more choice when they consider how best to plan their lives in retirement.
“This choice is important as the report recognises that many wish to downsize when they reach retirement but have limited options. It also recognises that over-65s often choose to continue living in their existing homes.”
While downsizing can be popular, ERC research has found that 72 per cent of homeowners aged 45 or older wanted to live in their property for as long as they can.
This mentality grew stronger with age, rising to 77 per cent among those aged 65-74 and 89 per cent for those over 75.