UK needs Help to Retire scheme to boost homes for older people

More housing is needed for older people in the UK with a Government retire scheme like Help to Buy also needed to encourage them to move into smaller and more suitable homes, it is claimed.

Some 97% of sector professionals believe that the development of later living accommodation will play a key role in alleviating the housing crisis and 73% believe demand for later living accommodation will significantly increase over the next five years.

The research from law firm Shakespeare Martineau and the Housing Learning and Improvement Network (Housing LIN) also found that 90% are calling for more Government funding incentives and 89% of feel that planning laws need to change to boost later living development.

The research report states that the key to alleviating the pressure on the housing market is better development of later living accommodation, but this will not be achieved without bold action being taken.

It says that a complete re-think of the UK’s later living sector is urgently needed and will free up space in the already-stretched housing market. Not only was increasing housing supply stated as a key issue but providing a wider range of appropriate accommodation for older people in the UK, by offering a range of schemes, designs and tenure options, will also be crucial.

The research surveyed 200 senior figures in the UK later living sector from a variety of organisations including private developers, registered providers, local authorities, care operators, architects, charities and voluntary organisations.

It explains that meeting current and future demand requires urgent action, from both the government and the sector itself. Planning regulation was highlighted as an area in need of change, with 89% of respondents calling for an overhaul. This has recently been recognised by the Government with the publishing of new planning guidance around housing for disabled and older people.

The research also found an eagerness within the sector to promote the benefits of ‘rightsizing’. The majority, some 93%, of respondents thought that the concept, which encourages older people to move out of properties which do not cater for their needs, into more suitable homes, was set to increase in popularity over coming years.

Central to this is the idea of some kind of Help to Retire register, which would offer financial incentives for older people looking to downsize. Combined with a re-think of the function of stamp duty, regarded as a significant barrier to rightsizing, Help to Retire would make a significant difference in the later living market.

The report points out that making rightsizing easier and more accessible would free up homes for the wider market, whilst meaning that older people were in homes which were better-suited to changing lifestyle requirements.

Louise Drew, head of real estate at the law firm, said:

‘We must tap into the needs of the later living market and show that the days of housing for older people being limited to residential care and sheltered accommodation are over. There are innovative, appropriate and considered models out there which must be given proper attention, by the sector itself and the Government.’

‘The UK’s strategic approach to later living is woefully inadequate, poorly classified and offers no clarity on the choices available to older consumers, nor market certainty to investors, developers and operators. This can and must change. The benefits will be felt across all levels of society,’ she pointed out.

Jeremy Porteus, chief executive of the Housing LIN, believes that for a market segment of such importance, national policy has been largely silent on the topic of later living.

Porteus said:

‘There has been little government oversight or market insight into how the sector perceives both itself and the needs of its consumers.

‘More vibrant discourse and decisive action from policymakers and stakeholders will without doubt help the industry to deliver a range of better and more attractive homes, in places that people want to live.’


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