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The property market has often been compared to Monopoly. So is it time for ‘the players’ – the developers, commissioners and financiers – to update their ‘offer’ to older people seeking a move to specialist housing?

The market seems increasingly geared towards meeting the needs of ‘high net worth individuals’. The result is innumerable attractive but architecturally similar specialist housing schemes – many effectively gated communities.

Most would not look out of place on the equivalent to Mayfair or Park Lane. The homes within them are usually offered only on a conventional 100% freehold sale basis and with the price tags and service charges to match.

But what of those living in ex-council flats purchased under right-to-buy legislation or renting modest accommodation in areas equivalent to Monopoly’s Whitechapel Rd or Old Kent Rd (ironically now two of the trendier parts of London where housing costs have soared in recent years)?

They cannot afford to buy outright this sort of high-end retirement home or find a suitable property to which to downsize.

Even many ‘well-off’ people are frustrated by the lack of choice in specialist housing style and tenure and the paucity of genuine life-long neighbourhoods.

Clearly, we need to stop categorising people by the level of equity or other financial wealth they enjoy, but look to meet the legitimate aspirations of all those who want to enter – or move within – the specialist housing market.

Yet market research is still in the embryonic stage in our sector.

Affordable does not have to mean cheap, in the pejorative sense of the word. After all, specialist housing in the social sector has a proud record in raising design and quality standards, not least through the Housing our Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation and its follow-up Plan for Implementation.

On the first anniversary of Lord Filkin’s influential report on public services and demographic change, Ready for Ageing? last month, my concern is that we are still speculating instead of being strategic.

To return to the Monopoly metaphor, we seem happy to land on ‘Take a chance’ when we should be seeking to build up a community chest – ie taking responsibility for provision for older people.

Traditionally, this has been the domain of the public sector, with voluntary providers often in a supporting role. However, local authorities and their housing partners, including private and voluntary sector developers and providers, should be adapting that role based on better engagement with older people and feeding the outcomes to architects, planners and colleagues in housing, health and adult social care.

In this way, we can better understand how to unlock the gate to housing’s role in shaping our homes and communities for an ageing society and begin to improve the options. We must raise our game. We can’t leave it to chance or rely on everyone having a get out of jail card!

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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