Too many older Londoners are unable to access the housing they need to live independently for longer, according to a new report by think tank Centre for London. The report, Third Age City: Housing for older Londoners, makes the case for a stronger and more coordinated approach to building homes that suit London’s diverse population of older residents.
Older people currently have four main housing options available to them as they age: remaining in their current home, living with family or friends, living in a home specifically designed for older people (specialist housing) or living in a care home.
The report says that London is developing less than half of the new specialist homes needed overall, as land costs make other forms of housing more attractive to developers. Inner London boroughs are only building 25% of the homes required each year to reach London-wide targets. Outer London is doing better, but homes are not evenly distributed between boroughs. In some local authorities, the number of new homes is actually negative, as existing older people's housing is converted to other uses.
The report argues that this gap between what older people need and what is actually available is likely to continue to grow: the number of Londoners aged 65+ is expected to increase by more than a quarter (29%) over the next decade. Most of this growth will be in inner London.
The report also highlights that building new homes alone will not be enough to ensure older people have a genuine choice about where they want to live. Existing homes should be made easier to adapt and new homes should be designed with adaptations from the outset. According to the report, 52% of Londoners over the age of 65 have a disability, compared to just 9% of those under 65, so it is vital that homes are fit for people to age well and live independently.