Currently, a growing number of older people feel unable to move from their existing homes into something better suited to their evolving needs. There is growing demand for retirement communities given the ageing population and our proposals for how government can increase the supply of retirement communities are simple.
Firstly, the planning system needs to be reformed as it’s currently not fit for purpose. The government should ensure 10% of future housing supply is specifically for older people. This means increasing overall supply from c.7,000 new retirement properties a year to 30,000, which is 10% of the government’s target, and the level of demand estimated by Knight Frank.
This will be achieved by publishing new national guidance for older people’s housing; requiring local authorities to assess the local housing need for older people; requiring local authorities to include policies for older people in their Local Plans; ensuring sites for older people’s housing are allocated in Local Plans; and reviewing the additional impact of affordable housing and CIL payments on retirement communities.
We would also like to see an exemption for people moving into a retirement community from paying stamp duty, given the socio-economic benefits of this form of housing.
Finally, we would also like to see greater clarity over the future commercial model for charging for services within retirement communities, alongside greater consumer protection. We believe there is potential to create a new tenure that becomes a viable alternative to leasehold that works specifically for the service-based model of retirement communities. The Older People’s Housing Taskforce, promised by two successive housing ministers, can bring these issues together and create a new framework for developing and operating retirement communities.
Our sector needs greater government support to help address years of undersupply in retirement housing. We want to work with government, and Homes England, to create a policy environment that encourages investment in the sector to allow us to deliver the socio-economic benefits of retirement housing at scale.
We firmly believe that an emphasis on downsizing and building more retirement homes would have significant benefits across the housing chain. Building for older generations will not only help those who need specialist assistant to gain the support that they need whilst maintaining their dignity and independence in old age but would also complement the government’s current housing priority of increasing the availability of housing for first-time buyers. We estimate 2 million unused bedrooms could be freed up for younger people and first time buyers if we helped all those who wanted to downsize in later life.
Investment in retirement living would also help to support the needs our ageing population, delivering support services whilst maintaining their dignity and independence in later life, as well as reducing overall costs to social care services.
It is essential that retirement communities are viewed as an important part of the solution to societal challenges, reducing the pressure on the social care sector, freeing up properties on the housing market, and creating greater investment in the high street.