Developers face more criticism for neglecting the elderly

None of us are getting any younger. The number of people in Britain sporting a free buss pass is expected to increase 12% by 2020. This means that over a million people – the equivalent of Birmingham’s population – may be considering a change of lifestyle in the next four years. For many, this will mean moving house.

Britain’s struggle to accommodate its aging population is also getting old. The fact that the elderly need homes which better suit their needs, and that there aren’t enough of them on the market, is well documented. This week, two new reports have highlighted the depth of the problem.

According to new analysis for The State of the Nation’s Housing, there will be a shortage of 160,000 units that suit the needs of the elderly by 2030. Since 2005, there has been a significant increase in the number of 45-64 year olds living alone (500,000) as well as the number of 65-74 year olds living alone (300,000).

Approximately 87% of those in retirement housing have home adaptations, in comparison to around 60% of other housing. However, currently, only 1% of the UK population live in retirement homes.

According to the annual Homeowner Survey conducted by YouGov for HomeOwners Alliance and BLP Insurance, one in five (19%) homeowners aged 55 or over have considered moving in the past two years but have stayed put, with 25% stating they cannot find the right sort of home to move into. The reason for this is simple: there aren’t enough of them.

The building of new housing for older people peaked in 1989 at 30,000 units and has since fallen back by around 7,000 units every decade since. There are around 515,000 specialist retirement and extra care homes in England. This means that there is only enough specialist housing to accommodate 5% of the over-65 population. If current trends continue, there could be a retirement housing gap of 376,000 by 2050.

Baroness Sally Greengross, Chief Executive, ILC-UK said, “Our report highlights that there are millions of over 50s with care needs who haven’t adapted their housing for old age and may be in homes too big for them. Retirement housing could be a solution for some older people but we are building far too few of this type of housing.

“Government must ensure that planning better supports and encourages adaptations. If older people are to live longer in their own homes we must better support older people to make adaptations to allow them to continue to live independently their own homes. A freeze in the current rate of stamp duty might also encourage more over 50s to move to homes better suited to their current, and future needs.”

Clearly not enough investment is going into creating homes that appeal to older people. According to HomeOwners Alliance, developers and housebuilders should be building homes with older buyers in mind. Deluxe flats in inner-city schemes are often snapped up by downsizers because they offer amenities that appeal to older homeowners.

These amenities are often the same things that most homeowners want but they are of greater importance to older homeowners. According to HomeOwners Alliance’s Homeowner Survey, good build quality (71%), spaciousness of rooms (72%) and parking (69%) top the list.

However, compared with UK homeowners generally, a greater proportion of homeowners age 55 or older identify availability of parking (77% vs 69%), low running costs (70% vs 59%), proximity to shops (66% vs 55%), good transport links (56% vs 47%) and living on one level (36% vs 24%) as important criteria in their next new home.

The new housing minister Gavin Barwell has the unenviable job of trying to tackle the UK’s growing housing crisis. But while helping first-time buyers may be more politically palatable, last-time buyers must not be forgotten. If more last-time buyers were enabled to move out of under-occupied homes, much-needed family homes would be put on the market.

Paula Higgins, Chief Executive Officer of HomeOwners Alliance, said, “The recent Brexit decision means we are now in the midst of uncertain times and new housing is likely to be a victim. Government needs to focus efforts on negotiating a European exit but they must not drop the ball in delivering new housing that meets the needs of last time buyers. Housebuilders can’t be allowed to sit on their hands and land bank. The government needs to keep them building and building houses that meet the needs of last time buyers as well as first time buyers.”

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