Old is Gold – The Evolving Housing Needs
In June 2021, the Government launched the First Homes Initiative which mainly focuses on housing affordability for young people. The Initiative is to support first time buyers to buy a home for 30% to 50% less than its market value subject to some eligibility conditions – which is a very beneficial approach to assist some younger people to climb up the property ladder. However, with the diverse and evolving housing needs, this approach is not enough to tackle the current housing crisis in the UK and we need a much broader approach other than just focusing on younger people and first-time buyers.
As the UK’s population gets older, later living houses are increasingly in demand. Over the decades, there has been a huge misconception to later living in the public eye which is often linked with negative language and phrases such as old people’s places or nursing homes. It is important to re-educate the public to make positive changes and meet the diverse and evolving housing needs.
So what is later living?
There are significant differences between retirement living, traditional homes, and nursing care. Traditional homes are privately owned homes whereas nursing care mainly focuses on providing care needs to vulnerable people. Retirement living is built for people who want to enjoy their later life together with the benefits of on-site care and amenities while having their own independent space. Some developers and investors go the extra mile by providing luxurious amenities, such as on-site fitness, swimming pool, therapeutic treatments, lounge area, restaurants, and library. Retirement living is all about improving quality of life, a modern choice of lifestyle for retirement.
Surprisingly, not only the public has a misconception about later living but also some planners, planning committees, and councils. Due to the lack of understanding, some developers and investors are reluctant to prioritize retirement housing as they don’t see it as the most profitable. Undoubtedly, the global pandemic has had a huge impact on people’s lives. We start to reappraise mental health, work-life balance, and the type of lifestyle we want to have when we get older. Evidence has shown that retirement housing communities have kept residents healthy and socially connected during the pandemic, which has taken pressure off GP surgeries, hospitals and care homes. There is an urgent need to expand the retirement living sector as a result of the global pandemic.
By raising awareness of the benefits of retirement housing, fighting against the misconceptions and re-educating the public, we could make a real difference. The real challenge ahead is for planners, developers and councils to balance having the right suitable homes for the designated occupiers with affordable prices. The Government should be putting people at the heart of care and not by order of age.
By Natalie Ming, Solicitor and Secretary of the Birmingham Solicitors’ Group