More housing for older people needed in the UK, says report

More housing specifically designed for older people is needed to help tackle the UK’s housing crisis, a new report has revealed.

Investment in age-appropriate housing would enable people over the age of 65 to downsize and free up family homes which are currently under-occupied, concluded the report, Too Little, Too Late? Housing for an ageing population, by the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation (CSFI).

It warned that unless the UK creates more homes for its ageing population, the UK will have almost 20 million bedrooms surplus to requirements in 2040, while almost 13 million over-65s will live in unsuitable households.

Professor Les Mayhew, writer of the report and professor of statistics at Cass Business School, said: “More efficient use of the existing stock would reduce pressure to ‘just build more’ as a solution to the UK’s housing shortage.

“The demand is out there as baby boomers seek to redeploy housing equity into smaller, more convenient homes with independent living and easy access to services.

“This would also reduce pressure on local authority spending through transfer to care homes and allow more efficient delivery of social care to individuals.”

The report found that there are currently 15 million surplus bedrooms across the UK, most of which are in homes inhabited by over-65s now living in couples or alone.

While elderly people should be encouraged to downsize to make room for first-time buyers, it says, only 2.5% of the UK’s 29 million dwellings are defined as retirement housing, while just 7,000 new homes built each year are designed for older people.

This lack of suitable housing stock stymies those looking to get onto the housing ladder and prevents older people from moving into more suitable properties.

Michael Voges, executive director of Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO), which financially supported the report, said: “The UK’s lack of supply of housing-with-care means that many older people spend more time in hospitals than they need to and have few choices if they wish to move to more appropriate housing.

“This lack of alternatives comes at great cost to the NHS and social care sector and exacerbates the social care crisis. A transformation in housing provision would also allow hundreds of thousands more older people to live healthier, happier and more independent lives.”

The report calls for national and local housing programmes to include specific targets for dwellings designed to cater for older people.

It also recommends a new joined-up approach between the NHS and the government, incentivising older people to downsize before they find they need social care.

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