A lack of options: the drought in retirement living provision


The news is brimming with statistics on the issues first time buyers’ face; however we often overlook the other group facing a housing crisis: the over 65’s.

10 million people in the UK are over 65 years old. The latest projections are for five and a half million more elderly people in 20 years’ time and the number doubling to around 19 million by 2050.

Yet despite this rapid growth, the UK housing market is not yet adapting to accommodate our ageing population. When deciding to downsize, lack of choice is the main contributor for older people staying put.

A 2016 report for the International Longevity Centre suggests that despite demand there were only 128,000 specialist properties for older adults looking to buy within the housing sector.

In response the Commission, a human rights watchdog, said that at least 10% of all future housing should be built with a growing elderly and disabled population in mind and that local authorities must reduce the bureaucratic hurdles for adapting homes.

So what suitable options are currently available?

One option is Extra care apartments; provided by Registered Providers with limited or more extensive communal facilities to promote a social and community environment. Extra care apartments are available for rent, shared ownership or outright sale. Each resident is assessed before entering to identify the level of support or care that they need to live independently.

At the other end of the scale are “Care Villages”, which involves the purchase of a property within a complex that may provide apartments, cottages, leisure facilities, spa and dining options. Some providers will also build residential care homes on the site to extend the level of care provision offered.

Retirement villages like these are thriving in other parts of the world. In the US, about 6% of all over-65s live in self-contained retirement flats or bungalows with communal facilities and on site care provision, but in Britain it’s just 0.7%.

On a positive note the number of established retirement villages is growing. Seddon are currently onsite building two retirement schemes and a healthy pipeline of projects.

However, these properties remain accessible to a small percentage of the market.

Some 22% of over 65s have only £200,000 of equity in their home and just 3% have over £500,000 of equity. Subsequently even those who own their homes outright may still not have enough equity to buy an average specialist retirement property.

The amenity-rich villages mean that costs are considerably higher, with service charges from £400 per month and exit/event fees that can add up to between 10 and 30% of the property’s value.

Plus there is another obstacle in further provision of retirement living — the price of land itself.

Property consultants Savills state that the value of undeveloped greenfield land more than doubled over the 20 years to 2017, and has risen 61% since 2009 following the financial crisis.

Because retirement properties require that significant space be set aside for communal activities, developers cannot achieve the same occupational densities as large housebuilders.

As the population ages it becomes more and more apparent that housing is unavailable, unaffordable or not suitable for everyone that needs it. There are issues within each bracket of the housing market, but the wider issue is the lack of options or a suitable middle ground.

It is therefore vital that we look to build safe, accessible and high quality homes that work for every budget to ensure we don’t undercut people’s right to remain independent as they age.









Debbie Sizer – Director of Seddon Care Partnerships

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