Later living accommodation has key role to play in alleviating East Midlands housing crisis

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The key to alleviating the pressure on the housing market is better development of later living accommodation, a new survey has shown, but this will not be achieved without bold action being taken at a local and regional level.

In Nottingham and Leicester alone, the number of over-65s is predicted to increase by over 19,000 by 2027, making this demographic account for 13.5 percent of the cities’ total populations. According to a House of Commons briefing from December last year, just 4,000 specific retirement properties were built in the East Midlands between 2009 and 2018.

Research undertaken by law firm Shakespeare Martineau and the Housing Learning and Improvement Network (Housing LIN), revealed that a re-think of the UK’s later living sector is urgently needed in the East Midlands to address this significant shortfall. This would result in a better range of housing options for older people, whilst freeing up space in the already-stretched housing market.

Not only was increasing housing supply stated as a key issue in the research but providing a wider range of appropriate accommodation for older people across 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.

The research showed that pressure from the UK’s growing ageing population is well-recognised in the housing sector. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of respondents believe that the demand for later living accommodation will increase over the next five years.

However, meeting this demand requires urgent action, from both local and national government, and the sector itself. Planning regulation was highlighted as an area in need of change, with 89 percent 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.

Alongside planning was an urgent call by 90 percent of respondents, who believe that more capital funding incentives from central Government are necessary to stimulate development and fuel investment activity in the later living market.

The research also showed an eagerness within the sector to promote the benefits of ‘rightsizing’. The majority (93 percent) 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 ‘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 Land Tax – a significant barrier to rightsizing – help to retire would make a significant difference in the later living market.

Louise Drew, head of real estate at law firm, Shakespeare Martineau, said: “The East Midlands is one of the fastest growing regions in the UK, and we should be leading the way with housing too. We have a real multi-faceted problem: how do we provide both adequate homes for local families and younger people, as well as suitable accommodation for the ever-growing ageing population?

“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, such as the ExtraCare Lark Hill Retirement Village in Nottingham and Somerville retirement village in Leicester, which must be given proper attention, by the sector itself and the Government.”

Louise Drew, continued: “As one of the leading global nations, 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.”

Jeremy Porteus, chief executive of the Housing LIN, concluded: “From Old Kent Road to Mayfair, housing for our ageing population must become a community chest rather than simply a game of chance for people in later life.”