Published: 20 September 2017
Last-mover market needs more attention
A recent report published by the Lancet Public Health has forecast that the number of older people who will be living with disability will expand by 25% between 2015-2025. This represents approximately 560,000 additional people in England and Wales who will require care for conditions such as dementia and disability caused by cardiovascular and other diseases. This expected increase in demand for disability care is mainly due to increases in life expectancy, which will see the number of people aged 65 and over increasing from 10.4 million in 2015 to 12.4 million by 2025.
Considering this, society will soon have to address an urgent need for policy development surrounding the inevitable age-related disability upswing and this should extend beyond the healthcare sector. The majority of the UK’s public and private provisions will need to be reviewed to address these growing concerns, with one of the most pressing areas needing attention being the housing market.
In recent years there has been much focus on making things easier for first-time buyers; ensuring that they have access to finance and enough incentives to get onto the first rung of the property ladder. This has been a worthy and well-received endeavour; however, it is now important that developers and policymakers consider the needs of last-movers too.
While many older people understandably want to stay in their existing family homes for as long as possible, this may not always be the best option for a growing number of them. Much residential housing stock is not suitably equipped to sustain older people as their needs change. While some local authorities may look to support homeowners in making adjustments to their properties, sometimes these changes are not cost effective or practical. If individuals are living in rented property, there is also the problem that landlords may not be willing to modify their properties.
When the time comes for older people to move, it is vital that there is suitable housing available, in both the not-for-profit and for-profit sectors. Policy changes may be needed to ensure this investment is forthcoming much more quickly then the current pace.
When developing new housing, the planning stage can often bring major obstacles. To avoid any significant delays, it is important that precise details are agreed when schemes are being established, including a clear definition for age-specific housing and clear guidance on planning implications. Age-specific housing would also benefit from being allocated a new planning class of its own. This would help to significantly reduce both ambiguity around intended usage of properties and curtail lengthy planning discussions.
Local authorities should also be provided with specific delivery targets for age-specific housing. By formally setting these out, greater progress can be incentivised and achieved.
If all challenges are met, there is an opportunity to make real progress. By increasing the number of homes older people find attractive, it may even be possible to stimulate their decision to move. This would not only ensure their own health, safety and comfort, but would also free up a vast amount of often under-occupied property for families and first-time buyers.
To get the ball rolling on this, developers require structured Government incentives but before this must come some recognition of the need to prioritise the ever-growing last-mover market.