Addressing the challenges of senior housing in the UK

Almost 25% of the UK’s population is over 65 and by 2050, this proportion will have grown to an estimated 37%, according to Property Consultants Bidwells insight. While there are ambitious carbon neutral targets for this date, the planning for the care and housing of over a third of the population remains an area short in policy detail.

Bidwells considers whether this is a tenable position for the new government who received votes from an estimated 60% of the UK’s over 65 population.

In his first speech as prime minister, Boris Johnson committed to address the UK’s social care crisis, stating that homes would not need to be sold to achieve this. This was restated in the November Manifesto with a pledge for an extra £1bn for 2020 to be extended until 2024/5. With the election won and a parliamentary majority in the bag, now is the opportunity for action. Today’s 12 million over 65s, and those heading into that tick box over the coming decades, will hope so.

Over the last six months, Bidwells have been working with Professor Michael Ball to understand the challenge of providing senior housing options. Professor Ball’s first paper, Why are homeowners wary of senior housing? Problems in search of solutions, investigated the factors that are inhibiting the growth of the senior housing sector in the UK, particularly the financial arrangements necessary to support renting as an option.

In the UK, nearly 75% of the over 65s are homeowners and with over 100,000 residents living in owner-occupied retirement living, this is type of accommodation is becoming a popular option. Forecasts suggest that demand for such housing could easily rise fivefold over the next 25 years.

However, this form of senior housing comes with several financial deterrents from an individual’s perspective. Therefore, any intervention to support the growth of the senior housing sector, and particularly the more flexible and appropriate rental option, needs to address the barriers faced by owner occupiers.

Working with Bidwells, Professor Ball has developed recommendations for financial products that seek to address the barriers to senior housing moves for the home owning majority in the UK. In January, Bidwells will be sharing his recommendations in their latest discussion paper on retirement living, Mobilising Housing Equity to Finance Senior Housing for Rent.

In 2012, as Mayor of London, Mr Johnson referenced Professor Ball’s research on the economic implications of housing policy for London¹. There is hope he will show the same interest in the Professor’s latest contribution on the senior housing sector.

Professor Ball’s recommendations will be published as practical solutions for the government to take forward if they are genuinely committed to address the mounting senior housing challenge in this country.

To find more on Professor Ball’s recommendations on senior housing, you can view the research here.