The government has been urged to do more to avert a “dangerous” housing crisis among elderly people in Yorkshire where town populations are aging faster than anywhere else in the UK.
Describing previous governments’ housing policy as a “catastrophic failure”, housing charity Shelter called for more social housing to meet demand for a rapidly ageing population.
This week, in his first spending review, Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid announced a 2.7 per cent increase to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s budget, which campaigners said should be spent on long-term planning for housing.
Age-friendly housing is already in short supply across the region and many over-65s are trapped in homes that do not suit their needs.
Of the six small towns in the UK that are set to see the biggest rises in their elderly populations over the 20 years, five are in Yorkshire, according to research.
Polly Neate, chief executive of homelessness charity Shelter, told the Yorkshire Post: “The catastrophic failure of successive governments to build enough social homes means that a growing number of older people who’ve been unable to buy now have no choice but to privately rent. In fact, the number of over 55s renting privately has jumped by a staggering 74 per cent in the last decade.
“The wild west of private renting is no place to be when you’re moving into retirement. On top of being notoriously expensive and unstable, there are too many rented homes which are simply not up to scratch. It cannot be right to condemn older people to live in properties which are run-down, damp or entirely unsuitable for their needs.
“The new government must provide a better alternative – and that alternative should be high-quality social homes.”
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Ian Warren, co-founder of think tank the Centre for Towns, said Yorkshire was the “most extreme” region in the UK.
Despite this, new build housing in towns has tended towards family homes, which are more profitable.
“There isn’t enough urgency in government. An ageing population doesn’t just impact on housing, it impacts on the health service and social care, it impacts on education, it impacts on transport and on the high street.”
A report by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Centre for Towns, which was discussed at a Westminster roundtable on Thursday, found that Ilkley, Knaresborough, Otley, Ripon and Wetherby are all set to see a 70 per cent rise in the difference between the number of elderly people and the rest of the population over the next two decades. Only one other UK town, Frimley in Surrey, was predicted to have as extreme growth.
Ben Derbyshire, the immediate past president of RIBA said: “It’s a dangerous trend.
“There’s not adequate awareness in government. Help to Buy is lining the pockets of housebuilders on whom there’s no requirement for them to meet [the needs of elderly people] in the homes that they build.”
Alex Sobel, Labour MP for Leeds North West, which includes Otley, said the town was benefiting from some new build properties aimed at older people but he had concerns about the provisions for changing demographics.
“There needs to be a social aspect to this, definitely. There should be state support for housing development for social but not for private.
“There’s an issue around quality and mobility. Older people need more heating so having super insulated housing
“More sustainable homes are better for older people because what you don’t want to do is build houses and put people into fuel poverty.”
Jane Branch, project leader for Humankind homeless prevention service, which works in north Yorkshire, said older people are often in more desperate need.
She added: “We tend to see more people in their mid-20s to their 40s than the older group but, when we do see them, they tend to be in circumstances that are quite pressing.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said: “With an ageing population, it’s vital that we build safe, accessible, high quality homes that work for all generations and that don’t undermine our ability to stay independent as we get older.
“As well as meeting the demand for new homes local authorities need to ensure that older people have access to adaptations and repairs to improve the existing stock of homes – where most older people live.
“We agree with RIBA that more housing that appeals to older people (through better design and accessibility) needs to be built in age friendly places where older people have access to transport, shops, services and healthcare etc. That’s why it’s important local authorities measure the needs of their older population and develop a balanced comprehensive strategy on older people’s housing.
“Everyone should be able to live in a decent and accessible home which allows them to live healthy later lives.”
This comes after the government announced the 100 UK towns that will benefit from the £3.6bn Towns Fund yesterday, which is designed to help “support towns to build prosperous futures”.
However, none of the 17 towns named, which the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government chose because they had industrial heritage, were the towns that faced the biggest issues with a rapidly ageing population.
The Yorkshire towns which are part of the Towns Fund are Brighouse, Castleford, Dewsbury, Doncaster, Barnsley, Goole, Keighley and Shipley, Middlesborough, Morley, Redcar, Rotherham Scarborough, Stainforth, Stocksbridge, Todmorden, Wakefield and Whitby.
An MHCLG spokesperson said:“Everyone should be able to access a home which fits their needs, that’s why we have provided over £2.7 billion to deliver around 280,000 adaptations since 2012 to help older and disabled people to live independently and safely at home.
“Our revised planning rules mean councils must consider the needs of the elderly and disabled people when planning new homes. We have also given councils guidance on options they should consider, such as housing with improved accessibility, so the most vulnerable get the support they need.”