We urgently need to reconsider how we best respond to the changing housing needs of our older population—at a time of general housing crisis in the UK.
Later living provision is currently fragmented, with private homes largely aimed at the higher end of the market, and quality provision by the state and local authorities increasingly hard to find and indeed to fund.
New and diversified products are beginning to emerge in this under-supplied market (see also our article on this angle) but there is some considerable way to go before most older people can access a choice of attractive homes suitable for their social, physical and financial needs.
Many stakeholders have entered the debate on how this situation may be addressed, with organisations such as the HousingLIN and ARCO bringing together the views of those in the business of conceiving and delivering new later living provision.
ARCO suggests that a focus on 10 key priority areas will support an increase in supply, giving 250,000 people the opportunity to live in UK retirement communities by 2030, as opposed to the current 75,000. SNC-Lavalin’s Faithful+Gould business has identified three of these priority areas as especially pertinent to the challenges faced by our clients:
Clear customer proposition
There’s a wide range of products that address the housing, care and support needs of our ageing population, but no clearly agreed consistency around the terminology used to describe these. This is confusing for occupants and stakeholders, and makes it difficult for policymakers to make sector-specific recommendations. A clear and well-communicated customer proposition is needed as the sector expands—at Faithful+Gould, our discussions with clients support this.
Clarity in planning system
The planning regime in England and Wales makes it very difficult for later life housing developers. The current approach lacks consistency in how retirement communities are classified, planned for and delivered (delivery of care and support is often overlooked). At Faithful+Gould, we find that inappropriate conditions are all too often imposed on our clients’ proposals. The recent refresh of the National Planning Policy Framework is welcome, but the creation of a dedicated Use Class Order for retirement and later life homes, alongside clearer guidance from government, with a requirement for local plans to reflect this need, would help.
Intelligent use of technology
ARCO points out that technology has the capacity to enhance the occupant experience and drive operational performance, highlighting the role of artificial intelligence and robotics. At Faithful+Gould, we believe there is an opportunity to go further, harnessing the potential of game-changing technology in the way buildings are constructed from the ground up.
BIM and modern methods of construction (MMC) are a huge opportunity to transform our built environment, and the sector is currently not taking advantage of this.
Making a difference in the later living market
Faithful+Gould has many years’ experience of supporting private developers, land owners, PRS operators, local authorities and registered providers of social housing. We are committed to making a difference in the later living market. Through our projects and our work with academia and specialist organisations, we contribute to research that develops industry standards in later living and extra care facilities: our work on the Dementia Hub for the Salford Institute for Dementia at the University of Salford, for example. Our team of trained dementia friends shares expertise both in-house and with clients and other stakeholders, to ensure the most positive impacts on people’s accommodation and lives.
Please contact Leanne Owen if you’d like to know more about our dementia friends initiative.