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What retirement housing needs

Policy asks for retirement housing

Increasing the supply of housing specifically designed to meet the needs of our ageing population is essential if we are to give people the means of staying safely and socially in a home of their own well into old age.

Before and after transformation

Challenges with building retirement housing

The fact is that in the UK there are few retirement housebuilders and for the small number that do create this type of housing it is costly and complicated to deliver for the following reasons:

  • Retirement communities include extensive communal areas such as lounges, guest suites, on-site manager accommodation and treatment rooms which add significantly to the build cost but cannot be recovered as “saleable” floorspace.

  • Instead of building it, selling it and moving on retirement housebuilders invariably stay on-site to manage and maintain the retirement community making it a long-term commitment with specialist management and support skills required.

  • The specification of specialist housing for older people is often much higher than that of mainstream housing due to the space considerations, equipment and high quality finishing of communal areas and gardens which are necessary.

  • Sites of the size and location which suit retirement housing are also sought by mainstream housebuilder and commercial operators with which retirement housebuilders have to compete when bidding. However commercial operators often do not have affordable housing or S106 costs so can bid higher, and mainstream housebuilders can rely on lower build costs and quicker sales patterns to enable them to bid higher.

  • Once under construction retirement communities need to be completed and cannot be slowed down or phased in line with sales patterns because customers very often want to see the finished product and meet the on-site staff before committing to a purchase.

  • Retirement housing communities often take longer to sell-out because customers quite reasonably take time to decide if they are ready to move and are then often reliant on selling their own property before completing on their new one

  • Customers considering a retirement housing property have not had the advantage of Help to Buy, Stamp Duty incentives or other financial support measures.

  • Local authorities very often fail to calculate and allocate sufficient housing specifically for the needs of their local older person population.

  • Local authorities often resist specialist housing for older people on the misapprehension it will add to the health and social care costs locally despite it proving to generate savings and despite most customers already living within the local area before moving.

Solutions which would deliver greater supply, choice and affordability of retirement housing

To mitigate these substantial challenges which act as a barrier to new market entrants and keep supply numbers unsustainably low, the following policy initiatives are required:

  • Local authorities and public funding bodies should be required to proactively plan for retirement housing – and to monitor delivery.

  • Local housing needs assessments should always include an assessment of the need for retirement housing by type and tenure.

  • Local plans should seek to ensure that a minimum of 10% of all new housing is specialist retirement housing unless the local authority can demonstrate why this is not appropriate for their area, (so 30k of the 300k national target for new homes). This is a step change from current provision and should encourage new entrants to the sector.

  • 10% of Homes England’s and GLA housing fund delivery to be for retirement housing – shared ownership and affordable rented housing with support and care.

  • The Government needs to address the long-term issue of viability and the impact of CIL, Planning Obligations and Affordable Housing on the delivery of specialist housing for older people. The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill should include a legal requirement for Local Authorities to specifically address this issue in setting local Infrastructure Levies

Most of these policy changes do not require any Government or taxpayer funding, they are simply adjustments to planning and delivery systems to help retirement housing operators play their part in delivering the new housing we need and provide the socio-economic benefits that come uniquely from this type of housing.