New report on UK Councils' experience in meeting housing needs of the ageing population

09/11/2017 - 16:28

There is a distinct and urgent need to better provide a range of housing options to meet the wide variety of housing circumstances, aspirations and needs of people as they age. The Local Government Association just released a report setting out in detail what is required to meet the housing needs of our ageing population and how councils around the UK are innovating to support older people to live in their homes for longer and promote positive ageing.

In the UK, the vast majority of over 65s currently live in the mainstream housing market. Only 0.6 per cent of over 65s live in housing with care, which is 10 times less than in more mature retirement housing markets such as the USA and Australia, where over 5 per cent of over 65s live in housing with care. At the same time, many retirees want to ‘rightsize’ and live in retirement housing in later life, but there is a chronic under-supply of high quality, affordable or desirable accommodation in the right locations. The suitability of the housing stock is of critical importance to the health of individuals and also impacts on the demand for public spending, particularly social care and the NHS.

The policy context that affects the housing options and opportunities that will address the needs of an ageing population is complex and changing. In their role as housing authorities, planning authorities, and health and care authorities, councils are at the heart of solutions, and should be enabled with the tools, resources and certainty to realise their ambitions for people and places. The case studies in this report demonstrate how Birmingham City Council, Central Bedfordshire Council, Essex County Council, Mansfield District Council, Newcastle City Council, North Somerset, Bristol, Bath and North-East Somerset Councils, and Worcestershire County Council are playing a significant place-making role in shaping the current and future supply of housing for an ageing population in their areas.  

The key themes and lessons that emerge from their work are, among others:

  • There are clear benefits where councils can shape local housing markets to deliver good quality, well-located, inclusively-designed housing for older people including, which will be attractive to many older people who want to downsize before a care or health related ‘crisis’ 
  • It is important to use a sophisticated mix of demographic data, planning tools alongside localised contextual information and what older people say through co-production 
  • The development of effective and integrated housing and health responses to an ageing population supports older people to return to their homes and provides practical assistance to reduce the likelihood of falls by assessing and removing hazards in the home to prevent hospital admission –
  • Commissioning and providing home improvement agency type services across council boundaries offers scope for economies of scale that can support and foster innovation in improving existing housing 

The report is available here.