All blogs are the views of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Age.
There’s an urgent need to plan how to better address the housing needs of our ageing population. This was the conclusion of the House of Lords Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change. A year on, it’s scandalous that more progress hasn’t been made in this area.
A total of six ministers signed the response to the committee’s report. It is good that government is starting to recognise the multifaceted challenges posed by our ageing population. But the lack of action on housing for older people – despite government recognition that provision is not meeting demand - is symptomatic of the absence at Cabinet level of one individual who can drive through change. It’s one of the reasons why Anchor is campaigning for a minister for older people.
As members of the Housing and Ageing Alliance, we are committed to improving the housing and living conditions of older people. We believe that homes for older people should be designed to enable choice, control and independence in later life.
At Anchor, we believe that the government should ensure planning law provides a level-playing field for the development of retirement housing. At present, care home developments are exempt from section 106 requirements – which allow local authorities to require developers to provide facilities to benefit local communities to offset any negative impact the development have - but other accommodation for older people is not. This is based on an outdated understanding of the nature of housing and care for older people.
It fails to acknowledge that many people in retirement housing receive support or care; it discourages the development of suitable housing; and it works against efforts to enable people to stay independent for longer. The planning system should recognise that retirement housing is more costly than mainstream housing as communal facilities are more extensive and this should be taken into account when calculating Section 106 contributions.
For the same reason, the Community Infrastructure Levy – which allows local authorities in England and Wales to raise funds from local developers undertaking new building projects - should be set at a nil level for assisted living and extra care developments.
As the Lords’ report stated, a YouGov poll for Shelter in 2012 found a third of people over 55 were interested in specialist housing. Yet without planning reform, supply will not meet demand. Increasing supply would not only benefit older people. Younger people would benefit from the movement in the property market and the increased availability of family-sized properties.
Independent Age are to be congratulated on highlighting how much more needs to be done to make the UK the best country to grow old in. I sincerely hope we don’t have to wait another year before we see action.
What do you think needs to happen to make the UK the best country to grow older in?
What concerns you most about growing older and why?
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