74.As emphasised at the outset of this report, older people are a highly diverse group and this is also the case for their housing preferences. Older people may choose to live in mainstream housing, accessible housing, specialist housing, including retirement and extra care housing, and cohousing. How and where they choose to live will depend very much on personal preference, age, income, equity and health, mobility and care requirements. As John Godfrey of Legal and General said, “it is horses for courses somewhat in this area”. In this chapter, we examine the key themes of the evidence in relation to different types of housing.
75.The standards relevant to accessible housing are set out in Approved Document M (Access to and use of buildings) Volume 1: Dwellings. Published in 2015 following the Housing Standards Review, this document streamlined and replaced various different sets of standards, including for accessible housing. There are three standards: Category 1—visitable dwellings; Category 2—accessible and adaptable dwellings; and Category 3—wheelchair user dwellings. Categories 2 and 3 broadly reflect respectively the Lifetime Homes standard and the Wheelchair Housing Design Guide, developed by Habinteg, and building to these standards make homes more accessible and adaptable.
76.All new homes must be built to Category 1. This standard is met when a new dwelling has level access, a flush threshold, sufficiently wide doorways and circulation space, and a WC at entrance level. Habinteg said that this standard was “not sufficiently accessible for most older and disabled people and it is only ‘visitable’ in the loosest sense”. In 2014, only 7% of all homes (existing as well as new stock) in England had been built to Category 1, however, the overall proportion of new homes being built to this standard has increased from 13% before 2001 to 68% since 2001.
77.The higher Category 2 and 3 standards are optional. Julia Park, Head of Housing Policy at Levitt Bernstein, explained how a Category 2 home could benefit an older person:
The principal benefits would be practical. They would have room to turn a wheelchair in a hall and be able to enter rooms without having to jiggle and make lots of movements. They would have a workable bathroom—quite a sizeable bathroom. They would be guaranteed step-free access to the front door. They would have a large WC at entrance level with the potential for a shower. So it is nothing particularly astonishing to look at, but all those little moves added together mean that day-to-day life would be very much easier.
We were able to see this for ourselves during our visit to Goodrich Court in Hounslow, a recently built development of Lifetime Homes and wheelchair accessible flats. We looked around a wheelchair accessible flat and a flat built to Lifetime Homes standards and could clearly see how the layout could accommodate a person’s accessibility needs.
78.In addition, homes built to Category 2 and 3 standards are intended to be ‘futureproof’, easily able to accommodate subsequent adaptations with “strengthened walls in key areas such as WCs and bathrooms where grab-rails are most likely to be needed and a stair that is capable of accepting a stair- lift”. In contrast, we heard that some adaptations to mainstream homes, like widening doors, putting in ramps and lifts, were very difficult to do retrospectively and not always aesthetically pleasing. Julia Park said this provided “real pointers for where we should be heading in the future”.
79.The then DCLG said that, in applying the optional Category 2 and 3 standards, local planning authorities need to take:
A proportionate and evidenced based approach to ensure that housing supply is not held back by unnecessary red tape. [They] will need to gather evidence to determine whether there is a need for additional standards in their area, and justify setting appropriate policies in their Local Plans. This would be based on their housing needs assessment and other available datasets considered appropriate by the local planning authority.
Local Plans are expected to set out the proportion of new dwellings in the area that are required to meet the standards, which are then applied to individual developments through planning conditions. However, a freedom of information request by Habinteg to councils in 2016 revealed that, of the 82% of local authorities which responded, only 8% had planning policies in place to build to Category 2 standards and tracked the number of homes being built accordingly. Once London Boroughs were excluded—the London Plan requires all new homes to be built to Category 2 and 10% to Category 3—the proportion fell to 3%. Julia Park of Levitt Bernstein said:
There is literally that variation, from nothing to all, across the country, and that bears absolutely no relation to geographical or demographic need across the country. It is very much what the local authorities have had time to do, in terms of updating their local plans, or how brave they feel about, you know, upsetting developers and making it policy. That spread speaks for itself. It really isn’t a policy that is working nationally; it is a policy that is working in a few places, and not at all in others.
The then Housing Minister told us that “Authorities will need to consider affordability, viability and how all this will be maintained if they choose to adopt particular sets of standards. It is right to give [them] a level of autonomy in these matters”. In subsequent correspondence he told us that, because the Department did not collect data on specific planning conditions set, they do not hold data on the number of homes built to the optional standards. Research from Habinteg and the Papworth Trust found that there were 300,000 disabled adults with an unmet accessible housing need. Later Life Ambitions’ survey of their members found that, of the 1054 who said they had mobility issues, 75% reported that their home did not have specific features to support their accessibility needs.
80.We asked witnesses how much extra it cost to build a Category 2 home. Andrew Gibson, Vice Chair of Habinteg, told us that building costs and space requirements meant an accessible three-bedroom semi-detached house cost, on average, £1,400 more to build than a less accessible house. Supplementary written evidence from Levitt Bernstein included the table below. These figures were produced by external cost consultants for the then DCLG during the Housing Standards Review. The top figure is the estimated building cost of providing the accessibility requirements and the bottom bracketed figure is the estimated part of the additional cost which cannot be recouped through higher sales values.
Table 1: Cost per dwelling over and above current industry practice (£)
2b terrace house
Source: EC Harris, Cost impact report published during the Housing Standards Review, 2014
Andrew Gibson of Habinteg highlighted that the costs were not significant given “all the future proofing benefits we have talked about”. However, we heard from Levitt Bernstein that the extra costs could lead developers to claim that they upset viability, leaving the standards “vulnerable to negotiation”.
81.On building homes to Category 2 and 3, Claudia Wood of Demos said “it is one of the puzzles: why is everyone not doing it? It is basic common sense for long-term liveability of homes”. We agree. We note that the House White Paper states that the forthcoming Neighbourhood Planning Act guidance will “set a clear expectation that all planning authorities should set policies using the Optional Building Regulations”. However, we believe that mandatory Category 1 standard is too low and that all new homes should be built to be ‘age proof’ for the current and future needs of an ageing population. We recommend therefore that the baseline standard for all new homes should be Category 2. The Government should work with local authorities to collect data on the number of homes built to Category 2 and 3 standards and require that homes built to such standards are advertised as such in sales and lettings literature so they are easily identifiable.
82.We heard there was a need to keep better track of the stock of accessible homes. Levitt Bernstein said:
Every [local planning authority] should, in theory, produce an accessible Housing Register and keep it up to date. In practice, this rarely happens which means that [local planning authorities] are unable to direct people towards housing that meets their needs.
They went on to say that this was particularly important in relation to wheelchair adaptable housing, the potential of which may not be obvious on inspection. Jacquel Runnalls of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists also said that adapted homes could also be better identified and tracked by housing occupational therapists and surveyors to ensure that they were matched to people who needed them. We recommend that local authorities ensure their accessible housing register or comparable system is comprehensive and up-to-date and keep track of stock which has undergone significant adaptation so that it can be matched in the future to the needs of new occupants. They should also ensure that housing occupational therapists, surveyors and housing associations feed into the information gathering process.
83.Specialist housing is a ‘catch all’ term for a range of types of housing for older people, other than care homes, which provide varying levels of support while enabling a person to live independently in their own living space. A range of terms are used to describe the different types of specialist housing. The Home Builders Federation said it comprised:
Reference was also made to ‘assisted living’, ‘close care housing’, ‘housing with care’ and ‘retirement villages’. In addition, the terms ‘sheltered housing’ and ‘very sheltered housing’ were used primarily for schemes in the social sector, although we note that these schemes are increasingly referred to as ‘independent living’. Unsurprisingly, the terminology was described as “confusing” and Barton Willmore, a planning and design consultancy, said “There is no ‘standard definition’ for any of these; in many cases, they overlap and people do not know where to begin; or where to seek advice”. Dr Brian Beach of the International Longevity Centre-UK explained that specialist housing in other countries, particularly America and New Zealand, was very popular. He said that
[In the UK] For the consumer, it is less clear what product is on offer [ … ] The success in other markets in other countries is attributed by many experts to the consistent concept that people have and their ideas. As one person put it, there needs to be a unification of a concept that appeals to different needs but does not develop into an incredibly complex network or array of options.
84.The current array of terms used to describe the different types of specialist housing is confusing, although what is provided is diverse. This makes it difficult for people to understand what is on offer and make comparisons, and may ultimately be off-putting for people interested in this type of housing. We note that the success of specialist housing in other countries may be due to having a “consistent concept” of what is on offer. The Government should instigate discussions between developers and providers of specialist housing with the aim of agreeing on a consistent terminology to describe the housing and related services on offer.
85.Currently, only around 5% of the over-65 population live in all types of specialist housing, yet the evidence suggested that many more older people would like to do so. Claudia Wood of Demos said that a quarter of older people polled by her organisation were interested in moving to specialist housing. Michael Voges, Executive Director of the Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO), the representative body for providers of extra care housing, said that there was a “huge demand” for this type of housing, describing people “queueing down the corridor” waiting for a new scheme showroom to open. Paul Teverson, Director of Communications at McCarthy and Stone, agreed, saying “across our managed stock, only about 4% is vacant [ … ] so we know that there are generally waiting lists for people to buy one of our properties”. Midland Heart, a housing association, said that there was sufficient demand to “support the development of thousands of new units of older person specific housing in the Midlands over the next ten years”. The current shortfall is estimated at around 15,000 to 25,000 units a year. Taking into account future housing need, the Housing LIN estimates a shortfall of 400,000 units of specialist housing by 2035. Jeremy Porteus said this comprised the following units:
About 70,000 is extra care housing. About half a million is sheltered housing, but increasingly it is also a move towards this rightsizer/downsizer accommodation, which is still fairly immature, but is seen as an attractive choice. Of that, we are probably talking between about 80,000 to 90,000 properties that have been reclassified as that.
86.In addition, we heard that there was a particular shortage of privately developed specialist homes and, as a result, a shortage of homes for private sale and “virtually none” for private rent. Audley Retirement, a private provider, said that the concentration of specialist housing in the housing association and charitable sector had “caused an imbalance in many areas where as much as 80% of the population are owner occupiers”. Furthermore, with regards to extra care housing, the ‘middle market’ was particularly poorly catered for. ARCO said:
The majority of older people’s housing-with-care provision caters for those eligible for social/affordable rent (housing benefit) [ … ] The majority of the older and ageing population fall into the ‘middle market’ bracket: those owning average sized two or three bedroom houses who would be ineligible for social rented accommodation, and unable to afford accessing high end provision. This group is therefore particularly under-served. Indeed, there is currently only enough middle market stock to cater for around 0.1% of older people in this income bracket.
We believe that, in the face of demand, there is a shortfall in supply of specialist homes in general and particularly for private ownership and rent and for the ‘middle market’. This limits the housing options available to older people and the opportunity to derive the health and wellbeing benefits linked to specialist homes. In the following chapter, we discuss the evidence we received about the impact of the planning system on number of specialist homes being built.
87.There is a significant body of evidence on the health and wellbeing benefits to older people of living in specialist housing and the resultant savings to the NHS and social care. This is particularly the case for extra care housing, which has onsite care and support and communal facilities. In addition, this type of housing helps family and carers finding it challenging to provide enough care and support. We visited two extra care housing schemes; Battersea Place, a luxury development in Battersea, and Priory View, a scheme built by Central Bedfordshire Council. We were impressed with the facilities and lively atmosphere at both.
88.Research by the International Longevity Centre-UK found that around a quarter of people who moved into extra care housing with social care needs (or went on to develop them) experienced an improvement within five years, were less likely to be admitted to hospital overnight and had fewer falls. Subsequent research found that, in comparison to older people in the general community, extra care residents reported having a higher quality of life, a higher sense of control and lower levels of loneliness. While at Aston University, Professor Holland led a three-year study on the impact on older people’s health of living in the ExtraCare Charitable Trust’s extra care schemes. She told us about some of the findings:
We looked at how long people spent in hospital in the year before they moved in, with a follow-up the year after they moved in. We found a significant reduction from a median of five to seven days to a median of about one to two days for unplanned hospital visits [ … ] There are several possible reasons for this. ExtraCare has a wellbeing adviser, so a nurse, and a drop-in advice clinic where people can get advice on health issues [ … ] Another reason is that people’s homes in supported living are purpose built, so there are no access issues. They have a wet room shower. There are no steps or stairs. They are all very accessible. The other thing is that there is care on site. [ … ] Finally, the support is available to enable self-care from that wellbeing adviser, who is a nurse, so to help them learn how to look after any new tablets.
Professor Holland’s study found that the NHS costs for those in the sample were reduced by 38% and that the costs for frail residents had reduced by 51%. In addition, local authority costs of providing lower and higher level social care were 17.8% (£1,222) and 26% (£4,556) lower respectively on average per person per year. With regards to retirement housing, research from the University of Reading showed that it can help combat social isolation and promote fitness, with over 80% of owner occupiers of retirement housing taking part reporting feeling happier in their new home and nearly a third feeling that their health had improved.
89.Providers of sheltered housing emphasised their role in helping older people to stay healthy, reducing hospital admissions and delayed transfers of care, thereby generating savings to health and social care budgets. Research by Demos estimated the value of sheltered housing to the NHS and social care at £486 million per year, of which £17.8 million amounted to reduced loneliness. In light of this, the Government’s support for specialist housing under the Shared Ownership and Affordable Housing Programme and the Care and Support Specialised Housing Programme is welcome.
90.Age UK highlighted that such benefits depend on the quality of the scheme and said that there were clear differences between “housing at the top-end of the market” and “run-down badly managed sheltered housing with little or no housing support”. Indeed, some of the contributors to our web forum were unhappy about the level of support provided to them by their housing association, describing “neglect” and “lack of emotional support”, homes not being adapted to meet their needs and not being redecorated and repaired between occupants. In contrast, another contributor said that her housing association had a “strong ethic of care for its tenants and leaseholders”. Sue Adams of Care and Repair said that analysis of LOGASnet data had shown a “really big shift away from social landlords doing the repairs in their homes” and also said that her organisation had heard evidence of some social landlords refusing permission for adaptations.
91.Specialist housing, and particularly extra care housing, can promote the health and wellbeing of older people and their carers, leading to savings in spending on health and social care. We recommend that the planned social care green paper should include plans to promote awareness of this type of housing so it becomes an option for older people whose care needs are not significant enough for residential care.
92.Registered social landlords also play a significant role in promoting the health and wellbeing of vulnerable older tenants. We believe that, as recommended by our predecessor Committee, housing associations should remain mindful of their social mission to ensure that they make best use of this position and consistent levels of service, the Government should publish standards setting out their role and responsibilities to their older tenants, including ensuring good quality, adapted (where necessary) housing and, more widely, falls and accident prevention, preventing hospital admissions and enabling prompt discharge.
93.There are concerns about the cost of and costs associated with specialist housing and its resale value. Most specialist housing is leasehold. Leaseholders are also required to pay regular service charges for the upkeep of the facilities and for the shared services. They may also be required to pay ground rent. In addition, ‘event fees’, which are payable by the leaseholder typically on the sale of the property, are common.
94.Specialist housing costs more to buy than its non-specialist equivalent. Paul Teverson of McCarthy and Stone said that their apartments were “about 10% more expensive than an average apartment in the local area”. However, from experience in our constituencies, we believe that the cost is somewhat higher. Contributors to our web forum remarked on this; for example, one person said the private retirement villages in her area were “for the very rich” and the equity in her current property would not be sufficient to buy an apartment in one. We note, however, that developments range from the expensive high-end to the more affordable. Paul Teverson said that there was a “premium” because “You are buying into not just the 800 square feet of the apartment but the homeowners’ lounge, the restaurants and the services”. He went on to say that, as a consequence of the communal areas which are a feature of specialist housing, the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) was higher. We consider the application of CIL to specialist housing in more detail in chapter seven.
95.The Elders Council of Newcastle said the resale market for specialist housing was “difficult” and “losing money is a common feature” and we note the research undertaken by the Elderly Accommodation Counsel for the BBC which found that around half of new build retirement homes sold during a 10-year period were later re-sold at an average reduction in value of 17%. However, ARCO said that research they had conducted found that the vast majority of extra care housing properties increased in value on resale. Paul Teverson of McCarthy and Stone said that the instances of their retirement homes losing value “related to 2006–07 developments [ … ] that were sold on the eve of the house price crash” and said that they now have:
A really positive story to tell on resales. When we look at resales in the four or five years over that period, on average they were first sold at £196,000 and they have resold at £198,000. That is maybe not tracking house price inflation across the UK, but on average they are holding or slightly retaining their value.
96.Service charges on specialist homes typically include a contribution towards the cleaning and maintenance of the communal areas and grounds, the servicing and maintaining of lifts, as well as charges for support services, such staffing costs, care support and catering. Charges can vary widely depending on the type of specialist housing, who manages it and the services that are provided. Which? states that service charges “could be anything from £100 to £300, or even in excess of £500 per month for a luxury property”. The service charges for McCarthy and Stone developments are available on their website. For 2017–18, the service charge is £55.37 per week for a two bedroom apartment in a typical Retirement Living apartment and £161.49 per week for a two bedroom apartment in a typical Retirement Living PLUS apartment. In the latter case, it states that “costs in these developments are higher to reflect increased staffing costs, the provision of domestic support packages, and the table service restaurant provided on site”.
97.We were told by Age UK that high service charges may deter older people on low or fixed incomes from purchasing specialist housing and also heard that, having already paid off a mortgage, they feel that it is like taking on another. However, Claudia Wood of Demos said that people often did not realise that the service charge may cost less than servicing a property, suggesting it may be possible to save “£1,000 to £3,000 a year”. She went on to say that awareness needed to be raised on what service charges were for and whether they were good value for money. Dr Beach of the International Longevity Centre-UK said consumers needed “greater clarity” on what the product offers. We also refer to the earlier cited evidence from John Galvin of the Elderly Accommodation Counsel that older people often needed advice on pricing arrangements, service charges and services and that it was a “big job to work out “What can I afford? What model would work best for me?”
98.Following an Office of Fair Trading investigation, the Law Commission was asked by the then DCLG in 2014 to investigate the potentially unfair use of event fees in specialist housing. There had been cases of fees being charged in what the Law Commission referred to as “unexpected cases”, such as when a spouse, civil partner or carer moves in, or when an existing resident moves out. The Law Commission did not recommend abolishing event fees on the basis that they can make specialist retirement housing more affordable and may facilitate overall supply. ARCO said:
Many older people are cash-rich and income poor. Payment and charging models using deferred fees (or ‘event fees’) are one way of enabling older people to use their housing equity to defer some of the cost of purchasing or occupying the unit until a later date.
Michael Voges of ARCO explained how event fees incentivised operators to enter the market:
We have one member—a not-for-profit organisation—building something with £8 million or £9 million of communal facilities. That will be paid for not by the initial development but from the capital repayments over time, taken via the event fees, which will also pay for the interest. When you run these schemes over time, with the event fees you can reduce the amount of service charge that people might want to pay, and you can de-risk the service charge.
99.The Law Commission found that “event fees and their financial consequences are not always clear to consumers when they are deciding whether to purchase a retirement property”. They recommended better regulation and proposed a code of practice which, among other things, limits the circumstances in which event fees may be charged and obliges scheme operators to provide transparent information on event fees, including the level of fee, at an early stage in the purchase process. We note that members of ARCO already have a Consumer Code which ensures people are provided with clear and transparent information about fees, service charges and service levels. The then Housing Minister, Alok Sharma, told us that a code of practice was “absolutely one of the things we are considering” and that “ultimately, what we want to see is transparency in the system, for people to know upfront what the costs are, and for those costs and charges to be reasonable”.
100.In addition to a code of practice on event fees, we heard that greater transparency could be provided through specific regulation of retirement communities (extra care housing), as is the case in New Zealand where this type of housing is particularly popular. Referring to New Zealand, Dr Beach said:
The fact that there has been so much development there is attributed to the Retirement Villages Act 2003, which set up a number of guidelines for what a retirement village has to be and has to offer. Within that are extensive provisions around better consumer protection, essentially. It says what information must be provided to the individual, outlining how any of the fees and all of that structure will be before they move in. An innovative feature is that everyone who moves in is required to receive independent financial advice before they sign any contract, so they understand everything.
101.We believe that concerns about the cost of and costs associated with specialist housing, as well as its resale value may deter older people from purchasing this type of property. Greater transparency on charges and payment models, particularly event fees, linked to wider availability of advice, would help to improve consumer confidence in this area. We therefore recommend that the Government should accept the Law Commission’s recommendations on event fees and give legislative backing to its proposed code of practice. In addition, consideration should be given to introducing a legislative framework for extra care housing (as has been introduced in New Zealand) to bring together regulations relating to the provision of housing, care, and other support services.
102.In September 2016, the Government announced proposals for a new funding model for supported housing from April 2019. Under the new model, core rent and service charges would be funded through Housing Benefit or Universal Credit up to the level of the applicable Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate. For costs above the LHA rate, the Government would devolve ring-fenced top-up funding for disbursement by local authorities. Our predecessor committee held a joint inquiry with their Work and Pensions Committee counterparts to scrutinise these proposals. The committees heard that the LHA rate was an inappropriate starting point for a new funding mechanism for supported housing and recommended in their report that the Government introduce “a Supported Housing Allowance, banded to reflect the diversity of provision in the sector and sufficient to ensure supported housing tenants will only require recourse to top-up funding in exceptional circumstances”.
103.Given that the vast majority of supported housing (71%) is for older people, we intended to return to the issue in this inquiry. However, on 23 October 2017, soon after starting work on this inquiry, the Prime Minister announced that the Government will not apply LHA rates to tenants in supported housing or the wider social rented sector and that, for sheltered and extra care housing, a ‘Sheltered Rent’, which would keep funding for this provision within the welfare system, would be introduced. This was a welcome move, and we are pleased that the Government listened to our predecessors’ recommendation. Anchor, Hanover and Housing and Care 21, three providers of sheltered housing who submitted supplementary evidence after the announcement, said that the concept of sheltered rent “appears to recognise the essential and varied role that this type of housing plays for older people” and acknowledges the difference in the model required for this group of people. However, they went on to say that there was still a “significant volume of detail missing” which requires “urgent clarification if the proposals are to result in new investment in older people’s homes”.
104.We sought to clarify some of the detail with the then Local Government Minister, Marcus Jones, when he appeared before us. The Minister told us that, although there was “a lot of work still to be done”, he was “confident” that the sheltered rent would “reflect the true cost of providing sheltered and extra care housing across the country but also looks to reflect what the future cost will be”. He also said that all properties currently considered to be sheltered and extra care housing “will go into the system on day one at the same rent point”. When we asked when the sector could expect formal confirmation of the detail of the sheltered rent proposal, he said that it would be “as soon as practicable” and, when pressed, that it would be “in the not too distant future”. We welcome the announcement of a ‘sheltered rent’ and the additional information offered by the Minister in oral evidence. Once its discussions with the sector are complete, the Government should confirm as soon as possible how sheltered rent will work in practice, in particular:
105.Bungalows are popular among older people but are in short supply. Central Bedfordshire Council’s survey of the housing needs of older people (600 short and 80 in-depth surveys) found that 61% of respondents wanted to move to a bungalow. The Council said:
There was a strong preference for bungalows with all other options trailing some way behind. This is not surprising as people are seeking to overcome the perceived disadvantages of their current home (difficulty managing stairs, costs associated with over-occupation) whilst retaining the advantages that caused them to choose that type of housing in the first place (personal space, privacy and control).
This preference was shared by the contributors to our forum, many of whom wanted to move to a bungalow but found them either to be too expensive or not available in their area. When we asked why bungalows were so popular, Claudia Wood of Demos said that it was because they were familiar and older people were not very aware of other housing options which provided similar features, such as apartments.
106.One contributor to the forum observed that “new build estates do not seem to include any/many bungalows”. We heard that the larger land requirement for a bungalow makes them unpopular with developers. Nottingham City Homes said “given the choice, a private developer will normally choose any property type other than a bungalow to build, in order to maximise return from the footprint of the development site”. Claudia Wood said:
In London and the south-east, where land prices are so high and space is at such a premium, to suggest we can build enough bungalows for all the old people who want them—it is not going to happen. Planning rules would not allow you to have that sort of footprint. That is why trying to capture what it means to live in a bungalow, in terms of some outside space, all one area, open plan, easily accessible, in alternative village-type designs or apartment-type designs, is the way forward.
107.However, we heard that councils were building bungalows in response to demand from their older residents. Nottingham City Homes said that it was building bungalows:
On small plots of land on housing estates (often former lock up garage sites) that are unused and have previously attracted anti-social behaviour. Such sites are not generally attractive to commercial developers, but provide an important supply of land for modest scale schemes. In our current building programme NCH has built or has in the pipeline 123 bungalows on 13 sites across Nottingham. Virtually all current bungalow development in the city is being led by NCH.
In addition, we note that Birmingham and Newcastle City Councils are building bungalows, and Birmingham City Council has built ‘dormer bungalows’ (ground floor bedroom and shower room, a lounge and kitchen and also a second bedroom and bathroom upstairs) in order to “make the most efficient use of available development site opportunities”. While better provision of advice and information about other housing options may encourage older people to consider alternative options, we believe that, given the enduring popularity of bungalows among older people and their accessibility features, more councils and developers should consider the feasibility of building bungalows.
108.Cohousing is considered an ‘alternative’ approach to housing. Anna Kear, Executive Director of the UK Cohousing Network, introduced us to the concept:
Cohousing is quite different. These are intentional communities created and run by their residents. This makes them different from the usual approach that you see to providing housing for older people. This is about older people taking control and deciding how they want to live. It is about people planning ahead and making their vision for how they want to live happen, and they are actively involved in that in the long term.
In terms of the physical set up, a cohousing community might consist of a common house, with communal facilities such as a kitchen, dining room and lounge, surrounded by private houses and a garden. While there are only a few schemes in the UK specifically for older people, for example ‘New Ground’ Older Women’s Cohousing Community (OWCH) in High Barnet, they are more common abroad, particularly in Denmark and The Netherlands. Maria Brenton, Cohousing Consultant to OWCH, explained the way of life at New Ground:
They live as an entirely self-managing group. They age range is 51 to 88, so quite wide. They manage every aspect of the building and of living there together as a group. They have cooking, cleaning and garden rotas. They have a communal meal at regular intervals.
We heard that the regular social interaction provided by cohousing guarded against loneliness and communal meals ensured that residents ate well. In addition, should a member of the group need care, support was hand with shopping, cooking and generally “looking out for people”.
109.Wanting to understand why there were so few examples of cohousing in the UK and why it had taken 18 years for New Ground to come to fruition, we asked witnesses what was preventing the establishment of more communities despite the demand for them. Anna Kear of the UK Cohousing Network said there were “an awful lot of barriers. The fundamental one is cultural. We are not used to people doing things for themselves, and certainly not housing and housing development”. We also heard that there were issues with the planning system and land allocation, as well as the tax applied during the process of buying land and development. In November 2017, the Government increased the Community Housing Fund, which provides capital and revenue funding for community-led housing projects including co-ops, community land trusts and cohousing, by £60 million each year until 2019–20. Anna Kear said that the funding would help to redress the balance of the current system towards large housebuilders and local authority housing associations and provide groups with access to professional technical skills and support. The Government’s continuing support for cohousing through the Community Housing Fund is welcome. We recommend that, alongside this, the Government, in partnership with the UK Cohousing Network, should produce guidance for local authorities on supporting cohousing groups through the planning system.
110.Older people’s housing is often easily identifiable. We put this to Paul Teverson of McCarthy and Stone who agreed that there was a “synergy” between McCarthy and Stone developments of the 80s and 90s and to Patrick Manwell, Consultant at Archadia Architects, who said that you could “spot retirement schemes [ … ] a mile off”. However, we heard that older people now expected good design. Mr Teverson said that, accordingly, there needed to be “innovation and excitement” in retirement housing and that it had to be an “aspirational move”.
111.Julia Park of Levitt Bernstein explained what good design entailed and why it was important in older people’s housing:
It is not just about how something looks; it is about how it functions, how flexible it is, its technical performance, its environmental sustainability and how long it lasts [ … ] It makes an enormous difference when homes are well designed in that all-round sense to all of us, but particularly to older people, partly because we spend so much longer in our homes when we are older and partly because we cannot reach so far or bend down so far.
We agree that the functional and accessible aspects of design need to be balanced with aesthetics. However, the evidence about the lack of attractive housing options for older people would suggest that this balance is not being achieved. We felt this was evident in the accessible flats we visited at Goodrich Court in Hounslow. While spacious and functional for people with mobility needs and wheelchair users, there may be merits in such developments giving more emphasis to aesthetic design. We thought that the flats at Priory View, the extra care scheme we visited in Dunstable, which was also built to accessible standards, achieved this better. We were impressed with the thoughtful design of the building: light and airy communal areas, flats with kitchen windows looking out on to ‘streets’, lots of outdoor space and shops and a café open to the public. We note that Priory View followed the HAPPI (the Housing our Ageing Population Panel for Innovation) design criteria for older people’s housing. The principles reflect good design generally but have particular relevance to older persons’ housing: for example, space and flexibility, daylight in the home and in shared spaces, balconies and outdoor space and adaptability and ‘care ready’ design. Maria Brenton of the Older Women’s Cohousing Group said that the group was involved designing the buildings for their cohousing community and that they have “loads of space, lots of big windows, very generous balconies, loads of storage—all the things that most developers do not think necessary to put into older people’s housing”. We believe that developers of specialist and accessible housing should be more ambitious in the design of their housing and should make use of the HAPPI (the Housing our Ageing Population Panel for Innovation) design criteria for older people’s housing. Local authorities and housing associations should require developers to involve older people in the design process, to better reflect their needs.
176 DCLG, , March 2015
177 MHCLG, , September 2014
178 Habinteg 
179 DCLG, , July 2016
181 Levitt Bernstein 
185 DCLG 
189 , 20 December 2017
190 Habinteg 
191 Later Life Ambitions 
193 MHCLG, , September 2014
195 Levitt Bernstein 
197 MHCLG, , February 2017
198 Levitt Bernstein 
200 Home Builders Federation 
202 Levitt Bernstein 
203 Barton Willmore LLP 
205 Associated Retirement Community Operators 
209 Midland Heart 
211 Housing Learning and Improvement Network 
215 Audley Retirement 
216 Associated Retirement Community Operators 
218 Levitt Bernstein 
219 International Longevity Centre-UK 
222 Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing (ARCHA) and the ExtraCare Charitable Trust, , April 2015
223 British Property Federation 
224 Riverside Housing Group , Nottingham City Homes 
226 DCLG 
227 Age UK 
229 Communities and Local Government Committee , February 2016
233 Elders Council of Newcastle 
234 BBC News, , 9 September 2017
235 Associated Retirement Community Operators 
237 [accessed on 19 January 2018]
238 [accessed on 19 January 2018]
239 Age UK 
244 Law Commission, , March 2017
245 Associated Retirement Community Operators 
247 Law Commission, , March 2017
248 ARCO, , December 2017
251 Q30. See also Michael Voges at Q118
252 Communities and Local Government and Work and Pensions Committees, , May 2017
253 DCLG and DWP, , November 2016
254 Anchor, Hanover and Housing and Care 21 
259 Central Bedfordshire Council 
261 Nottingham City Homes 
263 Nottingham City Homes 
264 LGA, , September 2017
267 Melissa Fernández and Kath Scanlon 
8 February 2018