‘Missing Middle’ offers new approach to downsizers housing

LONDON: Poor design options are keeping boomers in their existing homes and until better options are available, nothing will move them.

Whilst they are open to moving there is no incentive to move.

Nearly 60% of surplus bedrooms are in households inhabited by the over-65s, according to a report by the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation, which concluded that under-occupation of homes caused by an ageing population had created a ‘dysfunctional housing market’.

Too Little, Too Late? Housing for an ageing population, authored by Les Mayhew, professor of statistics at Cass Business School, found under-occupation was concentrated among the older population where people tend to live in couples or alone.

Professor Mayhew said if the situation does not improve, the overall bedroom surplus – where there is more than one bedroom per person – is projected to exceed 20 million in 2040, with nearly 13 million people above the age of 65 living in unsuitable households.

The report said while the retirement community industry grew rapidly in the 1980s, many of the older developments were now in need of refurbishment.

It said ‘far too few homes’ were being built that cater for older people. ‘Retirement housing has only accounted for about 125,000, or 2%, of all new homes built since 2000, but each year around 700,000 people turn 65 years of age,’ the report said.

Doing nothing about housing for older people, according to Professor Mayhew, would increase logistical problems of delivering health and social care to ‘scattered elderly populations living in unsuitable accommodation’.

The 52-page document said: ‘If more people lived in retirement communities, there would be a boost to health and wellbeing, as well as savings in the cost of health and social care.’

It made several recommendations, including a joined-up approach between government departments dealing with housing and health for older people; a requirement of local authorities to have a plan for retirement housing; the NHS should acknowledge benefits of retirement communities to older people; priorities should cater for affordable housing; and retirement communities should aim to be carbon neutral and use renewable energy.

Professor Mayhew said: ‘The demand is out there as baby boomers seek to redeploy housing equity into smaller, more convenient homes with independent living and easy access to services. This would also reduce pressure on local authority spending through transfer to care homes and allow more efficient delivery of social care to individuals.’