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Property Industry Opinion

Time to Bring Policy Agenda for Later Living Housing Out of Retirement


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Time to Bring Policy Agenda for Later Living Housing Out of Retirement


"The need for radical solutions for an emerging senior housing crisis is critical. "
Mike Derbyshire, Head of Planning at Bidwells



It appears that there is a bewildering gap between the supply and demand of retirement housing. Research by property consultants Bidwells shows there is a current demand for 30,000 new rental retirement homes but only 2,000 have been built. The number for sale is marginally better with a requirement for 30,000 and have built 8,000. 

As attitudes towards senior and retirement living are changing, Mike Derbyshire, Head of Planning at Bidwells goes into some of the reasons why it is time to bring policy agenda for senior living housing, out of retirement:

Changing attitudes to senior housing

Landowners and land promoters are now taking a keen interest in this market and having to recognise the Oliver Letwin report whilst also acknowledging the desire of Lasting power of attorney (LPAs) to speed up delivery.

Previously, local authorities have been single issue entities. Most of the discussions within any authority in the South East are about the quantum of affordable housing and how much social rent can be provided. Everything else is simply lip service. The need for more senior living is undeniable but is mainly ignored along with the myriad of benefits that would follow.

Retirement living leads to revitalising town centres

One reason to provide more retirement living is that it can lead to the revitalisation of town centres and provide new and wonderful opportunities for policy makers that actively encourage senior living in town centres. These include accessibility to services, public transport and leisure – all of which are the key motivators for downsizers.

Following the event, the government issued what was headlined as a significant update to the NPPF housing for older and disabled people. However, the update, which was nothing more than a generic list not fit to solve a growing healthcare crisis, left LPAs with the decision of whether to provide provision or not.

One of the key issues relates to suitable housing and care. This is one of the greatest challenges the UK will face over the coming years and has been the subject of multiple studies and a recent Select Committee report.

At present only a fraction of older households live in senior housing despite research finding far more people are interested in such options than actually live in them. This is an issue for the individuals involved, their families and capacity in the wider housing market. There are no short term fixes and the unfolding position will require we engage with alternative housing and lifestyles personally, but more importantly will demand change in fiscal structures and institutional initiative to drive new financing models for the future.

According to the research, there are currently 12 million people over 65 in the UK with accelerating growth in these numbers over the coming years as healthcare advances progress. Official population forecasts suggest that there could be another 8.6 million by 2066, with more people living well into their 90s or beyond.

Nearly 75% of the over 65s in the UK are homeowners and therefore any intervention to support the senior housing sector needs to tackle the issues facing this growing cohort of the population. 

The need for radical solutions for an emerging senior housing crisis is critical. The forecasts estimated the number of senior household (65+) over the coming 25 years will be equivalent to the household base of Inner London. Over the same period there will be an estimated five-fold increase in owner occupied specialised housing senior housing demand.

This clearly presents opportunities for the senior developer and care sector but will depend on a fit for purpose fiscal and investment backdrop.

To read Bidwells’ first research paper on the senior housing market, you can find it here.

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