The housing crisis is impacting on all demographics. We frequently read about the problems experienced by first time buyers in getting a foot on the property ladder, but the problems at the other end of the age spectrum are just as acute. Furthermore, as a consequence of the currently proposed changes to national planning policy and further proposed planning reforms, sadly it seems inevitable the existing shortcomings are more likely to exacerbate rather than abate the crisis.
The proposed revised NPPF, which is currently being consulted on, includes some positive commentary in relation to later living.
Specifically, Chapter 5 sets out that, ‘…particular regard is given to retirement housing, housing-with-care and care homes, which are important typologies of housing that can help support our ageing population’. But while this recognition of more general need is encouraging, it is hard to see how sufficient supply will materialise through the embattled planning system. When the changes to housing policy contained within the proposed updates are taken into account, it is difficult to envisage how this improvement to the delivery of new specialist care older peoples homes will be met - which the draft Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill itself notes is already forecast to be at a 37% shortfall against need by 2040.
Unmet needs (now and in the future)
According to the 2021 Census, 9% of the population of England and Wales is aged 75 or over and 18% of the population is aged 65 or over. The NPPF consultation material also highlights that by 2041 its forecast is that 1-in-4 of the population will be aged 65 or older.
Yet despite the future forecast and current demographic population data, the Retirement Housing Group UK (RHGuk)’s recent report Planning for retirement? How the planning system needs to change to better support the delivery of specialist housing for older people, describes how the supply of specialist housing for older people has failed miserably to keep pace with the ageing population: falling from 139 properties per thousand people for those aged 75 or over in 2015, to 110 properties in 2021, a 21% drop. Currently only 6% over 65s live in later living specialist accommodation, and less than 1% in housing with care. The RHGuk believes that provision of specialist housing for older people must increase substantially - from the current annual average of 7,000 homes to 30,000.