Housing LIN 2019

Leanne Owen
The March 2019 Housing LIN conference was well attended, as professionals, residents and other stakeholders shared their views on the future of the extra care and older people’s housing sector. Emerging themes included the extra care brand identity/terminology, digital technology and innovation.

Intergenerational living

Throughout the conference, demand for older people’s housing remained clear. By 2066, there will be 20.4 million people aged 65 and over, in the UK [1]. Recently, the focus for this age group has been extra care housing, but many conference participants emphasised the benefits of intergenerational housing.

A recent survey indicated that 33 per cent of potential residents of retirement villages had reservations about living solely with other older people [2]. Intergenerational living could help, but people would not want to feel forced into this type of single building housing. Whilst in larger communities or as part of a masterplan, an intergenerational approach can be adopted without the feeling of a contrived environment, financially viable smaller-scale extra cares with intergenerational living are not always possible.

However, older people ‘ghettos’ can be avoided, by offering initiatives that encourage a diverse age-range of community visitors, such as children’s ‘stay and play’ or providing workspace for individuals within the facilities.

Brand identity

The conference emphasised the need to provide a clear brand identity, if the above issues are to be overcome. A lack of consistent terminology around the offering results in confusion and uncertainty for potential residents. Is an extra care the same as an assisted or independent living scheme? How do these compare with a retirement community? If those working in the sector can’t answer this with confidence, how is a potential resident to understand? ARCO is seeking to resolve this as part of its Vision 2030.

Digital technology and innovation

Digital technology and innovation were common themes, with attendees recognising the potential of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), if we are to deliver anywhere near demand. Within the sector, some are convinced about MMC, whilst others remain cautious. However, there is a clear appetite in the market and MMC cannot be discounted as a potential housing solution.

How could the sector make best use of MMC? Some fundamentals of extra care housing are relatively uniform: most have similar overall heights, floor to floor heights and even plan depth, so some cost-reducing standardisation of components can be achieved.

However, for maximum benefits, industry consensus is needed, to agree the baseline for standardisation. Read more on the way in which MMC is set to disrupt traditional methods.

In terms of digital innovations, technology is increasingly incorporated in housing design, but do we always know what problem it is trying to solve? If we can’t answer this, we need to rethink our approach, harnessing the views of the tech-savvy generation now moving into extra care. Embedded technology may be yet another piece of kit— do residents actually want this or do they want app-based systems on the tablets they’re already using?

What’s next?

Housing LIN 2019 certainly lived up to its billing as a festival of ideas. Here are just some of the questions posed:

  • Can the industry come together to create a standardised solution to encourage component MMC?
  • How do we incorporate technology effectively? Are we solving a problem through technology or introducing complexities?
  • What is the extra care/retirement community offering and are we certain that dedicated older people’s housing is the solution? Are we blinkered and do we too often discount the benefits of intergenerational living?

Despite these questions (and the many others discussed at the conference), it is clear that there is demand in the sector and, with current levels of supply, we have a long way to go to meet that demand. There are no right and wrong answers—with the differing requirements, expectations and aspirations of older people, the more diverse the sector the better.

We now need to create a clearer, easy-to-understand proposition for the market, so we are able to harness interest, attract potential occupants, and show the huge benefits that extra care housing and retirements communities offer.

SNC-Lavalin’s Faithful+Gould business has many years’ experience of supporting stakeholders in the residential, extra care and later living sectors. We understand the different needs and drivers of private developers, land owners, local authorities and registered providers of social housing, and we add value throughout the project life-cycle.

If you would like to take part in the conversation around this topic, please contact Leanne Owen to find out more about our round table events.

[1] https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/articles/overviewoftheukpopulation/november2018

[2] Winkworth Sherwood – Holding Back the Years

 

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