Housing market failing older people

12 April 2012

Photo of a lady at home

Britain’s housing market is failing to meet the needs of older people - despite a rapidly ageing population and a growing demand for retirement housing, Shelter’s new report reveals.

‘A better fit’ explores the housing options available to over 55s, a group which will make up one in three people in England by 2030.

A YouGov survey commissioned for the report shows more than a third (36%) of older people are interested in retirement housing, either now or in the future - equivalent to over 6 million people.

If current levels of demand remain constant, supply will have to increase by over 70% in the next 20 years.

However, housing that meets older people’s changing needs is not being built, with many developers finding it complex and costly to deliver. The lack of specialist housing for older people with care needs is particularly acute.

In response to the findings, Shelter is warning that developers and local planners are missing a huge opportunity that would not only help older people, but could also ease the country’s housing crisis.

If just a fifth of older households who are currently ‘under-occupying’ their homes downsized, it could free up as many as 840,000 family-sized homes - more than have been built over the last eleven years.

Shelter is calling on local authorities to take a more strategic approach to older people’s housing, and to reflect older people in their housing market needs assessments.

We are also urging the Government to use the new National Planning Policy Framework to support the development of housing for older people, and do more to encourage older people to plan ahead for their future care and support needs.

Shelter’s Chief Executive Campbell Robb said: ‘We know that most older people want to remain in their homes and should be supported to do so. But this report shows that there are a growing number who would be interested in downsizing - be it to release equity or to bring down bills - yet are finding that there are very limited options available.

‘High quality housing in the right places, with support or care facilities available where needed, can help older people live healthy, active lives. Developers, planners and central Government must urgently look at ways to deliver housing that meet the needs of this growing group.

This is not only a fantastic market opportunity, but a move which would help older people as well as families in housing need.’

* Based on figures in report by New Policy Institute’s ‘Market Assessment of Housing Options for Older People’, 2012