Housing for oldies should be on Theresa's agenda

A think tank is calling on the government to tackle the retirement housing shortage. Sharon Dale reports.

McCarthy & Stone's Thackrah Court, Leeds

New Prime Minister Theresa May has an unfeasibly long “to do” list but a think tank dedicated to our ageing population has urged her to put retirement housing on the agenda.

A “State of the Nation’s Housing” report by the International Longevity Centre (ILC) reveals that there is only enough retirement housing to accommodate five per cent of the over-65s. The situation is set to get worse thanks to an ageing demographic. The Office for National Statistics predict that 29.5 per cent of people in the UK will be aged over 60 by 2039, up from 23.2 per cent in 2015. By then, more than one in 12 people are expected to be aged 80 or over.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The ILC says that by 2030 there will be a shortage of 160,000 homes suitable for older people and by 2050, the gap could grow to 376,000. It is urging the government to boost the supply of specialist retirement property, including apartments for sale and to rent. The rate of construction of new housing for older people peaked in 1989 at 30,000 homes a year but has since fallen and, over the last decade, the annual average is about 7,000 new units.

The new report is supported by residential property manager FirstPort, which says that the UK lags well behind other countries when it comes to providing purpose-built property for older people. In the United States, retirement housing accounts for 17 per cent of private homes and in Australia it is 13 per cent. In the UK it makes up just two per cent of private housing stock. FirstPort says one solution could be to relax planning regulations to make it easier for developers to build retirement property.

The report also paints a picture of increased under-occupancy and declining average household size. It reveals that more than 16million people live in under-occupied housing and the numbers are increasing. Since 2005 there has been a 500,000 rise in the number of 45-64 year olds living alone and there are 300,000 more single person households in the 65-74 year old age bracket. Almost 90 per cent of those aged 65-79 live in under-occupied housing.

The ILC says this is a compelling argument for downsizing but also suggests that planning rules should make it easier for senior citizens to adapt their existing home to suit their needs. Less than half of those with mobility issues lives in a home with any health-related adaptations.

Baroness Sally Greengross, Chief Executive of the International Longevity Centre UK, says: “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 property could be a solution for some older people but we are building far too few of this type of housing. Government must also ensure that planning better supports and encourages adaptations. If older people are to live longer in their own homes, we must better support them to make adaptations that allow them to live independently.”

Nigel Howell, Chief Executive of FirstPort, adds: “Downsizing is driven by retirees who want security, safety, convenience and companionship. Rather than feeling they are being forced out in order to free up large family homes, we need to present downsizing as a positive and exciting opportunity.”

FirstPort also suggests financial incentives, including an ISA where older homeowners can store equity released from downsizing and waiving stamp duty on downsized purchases.

Figures from retirement property developer McCarthy and Stone show that 30 per cent of over 55-year-old homeowners in Yorkshire are considering downsizing but a lack of suitable homes is stopping them from making the move.

There are also concerns over costs associated with moving home, such as stamp duty land tax, estate agency and legal fees.”

Retirement property specialist McCarthy and Stone has just launched a “Move For Free” offer on its latest site, Thackrah Court in Leeds. The developer will pay stamp duty, estate agency costs up to £12,000 and legal fees up to £2,000 on all new reservations made before July 31.

For details visit: www.mccarthyandstone.co.uk.