Housing for older people Contents

6Housing options

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”.175 In this chapter, we examine the key themes of the evidence in relation to different types of housing.

Accessible homes

75.The standards relevant to accessible housing are set out in Approved Document M (Access to and use of buildings) Volume 1: Dwellings.176 Published in 2015 following the Housing Standards Review,177 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”.178 In 2014, only 7% of all homes (existing as well as new stock) in England had been built to Category 1,179 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.180

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”.181 In contrast, we heard that some adaptations to mainstream homes, like widening doors, putting in ramps and lifts, were very difficult to do retrospectively182 and not always aesthetically pleasing.183 Julia Park said this provided “real pointers for where we should be heading in the future”.184

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.185

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.186 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.187

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”.188 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.189 Research from Habinteg and the Papworth Trust found that there were 300,000 disabled adults with an unmet accessible housing need.190 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.191

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.192 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.193 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 (£)

1b flat

2b flat

2b terrace house

3b semi-detached

4b detached

Category 1

Category 2











Category 3












Category 3












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”.194 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”.195

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”.196 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”.197 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.

Making best use of accessible and adapted homes

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.198

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.199 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.

Specialist housing

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’.201 Unsurprisingly, the terminology was described as “confusing”202 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”.203 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.204

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.

A shortage of homes

85.Currently, only around 5% of the over-65 population live in all types of specialist housing,205 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.206 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.207 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”.208 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”.209 The current shortfall is estimated at around 15,000 to 25,000 units a year.210 Taking into account future housing need, the Housing LIN estimates a shortfall of 400,000 units of specialist housing by 2035.211 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.212

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 sale213 and “virtually none” for private rent.214 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”.215 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.216

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.

Health and wellbeing benefits

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.217 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.218 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.219 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.220 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.221

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%.222 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.223

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.224 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.225 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.226

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”.227 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.228

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,229 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.

Paying for specialist housing

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”.230 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.231 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”.232 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”233 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%.234 However, ARCO said that research they had conducted found that the vast majority of extra care housing properties increased in value on resale.235 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.236

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”.237 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”.238

97.We were told by Age UK that high service charges may deter older people on low or fixed incomes from purchasing specialist housing239 and also heard that, having already paid off a mortgage, they feel that it is like taking on another.240 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”.241 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.242 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?”243

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.244 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.245

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.246

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”.247 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.248 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”.249

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),250 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.251

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.

Sheltered rent

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”.252

103.Given that the vast majority of supported housing (71%) is for older people,253 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.254 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”.255 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”256 and, when pressed, that it would be “in the not too distant future”.257 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.258 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).259

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.260

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”.261 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.262

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.263

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”.264 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.265

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.266

We heard that the regular social interaction provided by cohousing guarded against loneliness and communal meals ensured that residents ate well.267 In addition, should a member of the group need care, support was hand with shopping, cooking and generally “looking out for people”.268

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.269 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”.270 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.271 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.272 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.

Housing design

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 90s273 and to Patrick Manwell, Consultant at Archadia Architects, who said that you could “spot retirement schemes [ … ] a mile off”.274 However, we heard that older people now expected good design.275 Mr Teverson said that, accordingly, there needed to be “innovation and excitement” in retirement housing and that it had to be an “aspirational move”.276

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.277

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”.278 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.

175 Q149

178 Habinteg [HOP 029]

180 Q76

181 Levitt Bernstein [HOP 032]

182 Q70

183 Q207

184 Q70

185 DCLG [HOP 025]

186 Q79

187 Q78

188 Q284

190 Habinteg [HOP 029]

191 Later Life Ambitions [HOP 036]

192 Q77

194 Q77

195 Levitt Bernstein [HOP 032]

196 Q42

197 MHCLG, Fixing our broken housing market, February 2017

198 Levitt Bernstein [HOP 032]

199 Q209

200 Home Builders Federation [HOP 058]

201 Q201

202 Levitt Bernstein [HOP 014]

203 Barton Willmore LLP [HOP 064]

204 Q8

205 Associated Retirement Community Operators [HOP 060]

206 Q5

207 Q83

208 84

209 Midland Heart [HOP 026]

210 Q83

211 Housing Learning and Improvement Network [HOP 012]

212 Q7

213 Q83

214 Q85

215 Audley Retirement [HOP 018]

216 Associated Retirement Community Operators [HOP 060]

217 Q50

218 Levitt Bernstein [HOP 014]

219 International Longevity Centre-UK [HOP 079]

220 Q49

221 Q196

222 Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing (ARCHA) and the ExtraCare Charitable Trust, Final report, April 2015

223 British Property Federation [HOP 062]

224 Riverside Housing Group [HOP 048], Nottingham City Homes [HOP 067]

225 Q50

226 DCLG [HOP 025]

227 Age UK [HOP 085]

228 Q72

229 Communities and Local Government Committee Housing associations and the Right to Buy: Second Report of Session 2015–16, February 2016

230 Q97

231 Q103

232 Q97

233 Elders Council of Newcastle [HOP 033]

235 Associated Retirement Community Operators [HOP 012]

236 Q108

237 www.which.co.uk [accessed on 19 January 2018]

238 www.mccarthyandstone.co.uk/faq/ [accessed on 19 January 2018]

239 Age UK [HOP 085]

240 Q29

241 Q29

242 Q28

243 Q164

244 Law Commission, Event Fees in Retirement Properties, March 2017

245 Associated Retirement Community Operators [HOP 012]

246 Q100

247 Law Commission, Event Fees in Retirement Properties, March 2017

248 ARCO, The ARCO Consumer Code, December 2017

249 Q268

250 Q121

251 Q30. See also Michael Voges at Q118

253 DCLG and DWP, Supported Accommodation Review, November 2016

254 Anchor, Hanover and Housing and Care 21 [HOP 031]

255 Q286

256 Q289

257 Q290

258 Q137

259 Central Bedfordshire Council [HOP 011]

260 Q18

261 Nottingham City Homes [HOP 067]

262 Q19

263 Nottingham City Homes [HOP 067]

264 LGA, Housing our ageing population, September 2017

265 Q222

266 Q222

267 Melissa Fernández and Kath Scanlon [HOP 030]

268 Q228

269 Q224

270 Q229

271 Q229

272 Q229

273 Q87

274 Q234

275 Q81

276 Q87

277 Q81

278 Q235

8 February 2018