Housing for older people Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Advice and information

1.Access to good quality information and advice is fundamental to helping older people make informed, planned and timely choices about how and where they live in later life, and to helping them to live healthily and comfortably wherever they choose to do so and to make the most of their financial resources. (Paragraph 10)

2.We believe that the FirstStop Advice Service currently led by the Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC) should be expanded. Although we acknowledge that there is a considerable amount of useful advice available online, we are concerned that this is not accessible to many older people who may require information and advice in person. We recommend that the EAC should be re-funded by the Government to provide an expanded national telephone advice service (referred to from now on as “the national advice service”), supported by advice online, in hard copy advice and other accessible formats. Advice provided should be holistic, covering the range of issues relating to housing for older people as follows:

3.The national advice service should maintain and extend its links with local authorities, HIAs and other local charities and partners so it can direct people to advice and practical help locally. Furthermore, the national advice service, and the linked organisations, should be consistently branded and advertised by a Government-backed campaign to raise awareness and promote the creation of a ‘trusted network’. (Paragraph 12)

The link between housing and health

4.For older people, living in a cold home can cause chronic and acute illnesses and lead to reduced mobility, falls and depression. This has resultant costs to the NHS and social care. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that older people spend longer at home and may be living on a low income in homes that harder to heat. We recommend that the national advice service should partner with and signpost older people to the Energy Saving Trust’s telephone advice line. In addition, we recommend the Government consider developing a national scheme to help older people in fuel poverty and, as part of this, it may wish to consider schemes similar to the Affordable Warmth Scheme in Northern Ireland and Wales. (Paragraph 16)

5.The consequences of falls at home caused by often trivial hazards can be catastrophic, precipitating serious decline in older people’s physical and mental health. There needs to be a national and local drive to address falls and accidents in the home. This should include provision of better advice and information about repairs, maintenance and adaptations (paragraph 11), wider access to the services of Home Improvement Agencies and handypersons to facilitate adaptations (paragraph 34) and more timely implementation of, and flexible use of, Disabled Facilities Grants (paragraph 43). In addition, integrated working on health and social care should include working with housing partners to identify homes with falls and accidents risks and intervening to remove them. (Paragraph 18)

6.Social isolation can lead to poor mental and physical health. Ensuring that older people’s housing is within easy reach of local services, amenities and public transport links is therefore critical, and we consider the location of new housing for older people further in paragraph 118. Loneliness is harder to tackle. We support the recommendations of the Jo Cox Commission’s Call to Action, including a UK wide Strategy for Loneliness across all ages and a programme to develop the evidence around ‘what works’ in tackling loneliness, and welcome the Government’s recent appointment of a ‘Minister for Loneliness’. (Paragraph 20)

7.There is a well-evidenced link between housing and health and wellbeing, and the consequent costs of treatment by the health service. Poor quality, un-adapted, hazardous, poorly heated and insulated accommodation can lead to reduced mobility, depression, chronic and acute illness and falls and social isolation to loneliness and depression. We recommend that prevention, early intervention and promotion of health and wellbeing through housing should be a priority for the national advice service. It should refer people to where they can get practical help to improve the quality of their home and to their local authority and health service if more immediate, direct intervention is needed. In this context, we note that (Paragraph 23)

8.The need to integrate housing services with health and social care services has been recognised in the care and support statutory guidance and the Department of Health, Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government and NHS England supported 2014 Memorandum of Understanding to support joint action on improving health through the home. We believe that, given the health consequences of unsuitable housing, this should be reflected better at local level. Housing services should take equal status to health and social care services in the planning and implementation of closer working and in Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) and Accountable Care Systems (ACSs). The Government should monitor the extent to which STPs and ACSs include plans for closer working between housing, health and social care organisations and include mechanisms to address housing issues having a direct impact on residents’ health outcomes. The Government should, where necessary, make representations to such organisations to ensure that housing is included in STPs and ASCs. (Paragraph 26)

9.The right kind of housing can keep people healthy, support them to live independently and reduce the need for home care or residential care. The social care green paper, planned for publication in summer 2018, must consider the range of housing for older people, from mainstream and accessible homes to supported and extra care housing, as well as access to adaptations and repairs. In particular, the social care green paper should consider the role of extra care housing in the provision of social care alongside domiciliary and residential care. (Paragraph 27)

Staying put

10.We believe that this is a false economy. Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs) and handyperson services are good value for money, contributing to keeping older people healthy, safe and independent at home. The Government should make additional funding available for the expansion of HIAs so that there is at least access in each local authority area to one agency which operates a full range of services, including a handyperson service. (Paragraph 34)

11.Current schemes which check and endorse tradespeople, such as the Government endorsed scheme, ‘TrustMark’, should consider developing a specific accreditation for traders who have been reviewed by older people or their relatives and proven to be trusted. Once accredited, the trader would be permitted to display the branding used by the national advice line and linked organisations alongside their own logo. (Paragraph 35)

12.Equity release and re-mortgaging are possible routes for older owner occupiers to fund large repairs or adaptations to their homes. Mortgage providers and members of UK Finance and the Equity Release Council should work to ensure these products are tailored to the needs of older people. We make a specific recommendation on the provision of joined up advice on equity release and mortgages in paragraph 60. (Paragraph 39)

13.The DFG has a very important role to play in making older people’s homes accessible and enabling them to maintain their independence. We welcome the Department’s commitment to review the operation of the DFG and recommend the review should also look specifically at:

14.Private renting is an increasingly important housing option for older people and they should feel confident in being able to adapt their home to meet their needs. We recommend that the review of the DFG should consider how to ensure that older tenants in the private rented sector secure the adaptations they need. In particular, it should consider the case for allocating government funding to local authorities to make discretionary payments to landlords for the costs of reinstatement or removal of the adaptation once the tenancy has ended. (Paragraph 45)

Moving home

15.Many older people would like to move in later life but often the physical, financial and emotional aspects of moving home prevent or delay them from doing so, and we heard that many of those who do move often wished they had done so sooner, often “five to 10 years earlier”. The national advice service should provide information and advice on moving, including the practical aspects of moving and where to obtain help with this; housing options; and finance, including mortgages, help to buy and shared ownership. (Paragraph 48)

16.Moving home requires a significant amount of physical resource particularly for older people who may have less energy, health needs and a lifetime’s worth of belongings to pack and unpack. We recommend that the national advice service should consider how best to gather information about local organisations which can provide practical help with the moving process (decluttering, disposing of unwanted items, packing and unpacking, removals and cleaning) and, where possible, signpost people to these organisations. Furthermore, trade and professional bodies involved in the home buying and selling process, such as The British Association of Removers, NAEA Propertymark, The Law Society and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, should consider creating an accreditation for their members which provide tailored services for older people. Once accredited, firms would be permitted to display the branding used by the national advice line and linked organisations. (Paragraph 51)

17.The Government’s commitment to improving the home buying and selling process is welcome and, given the Minister’s evidence, we expect to see particular consideration given to how the process can be improved for older people. (Paragraph 52)

18.We have carefully considered calls for a stamp duty exemption for older people but are not convinced that this would enable many more people to move. Many older home owners are likely to receive a capital gain when they move that will cover the cost of the stamp duty payable on their new home. In addition, we believe that an exemption would be extremely difficult to implement. We believe that stamp duty is not the main barrier to older people moving home and that there are many other practical, emotional and financial factors which act to deter people from doing so. (Paragraph 55)

19.A small but increasing number of older people take out a mortgage beyond retirement age. They may have more success obtaining advice from a mortgage broker, who can better assess their personal financial circumstances, than approaching a high-street lender directly. We recommend that the Government should encourage lenders to improve the service they provide to older customers. This should entail the provision by high street lenders of clearer guidance, on their website and in the literature available in the branch, on their policy with respect to lending to older people. We also recommend that, where an older person who applies for a mortgage or re-mortgage is rejected, the lender should routinely refer them to another lender, a mortgage broker or, once established, the single financial guidance body for advice (see paragraph 60). (Paragraph 58)

20.The Government and UK Finance should together consider what steps can be taken to increase lenders’ confidence in lending on the purchase of specialist housing. The Government’s acceptance of the Law Commission’s recommendation for a code of practice on event fees and specific legislation for the extra care housing sector (discussed in paragraphs 98 to 101) may also help to sustain resale values, thereby boosting lenders’ confidence. (Paragraph 59)

21.We recommend that the single financial guidance body, for which the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill (Lords) will legislate, should be made responsible for providing specialist advice tailored to the financial circumstances of older people. It should signpost older people to mortgage brokers, banks and building societies who can offer advice on mortgages and equity release, shared ownership and shared equity, and on re-investing the proceeds of sales. The national advice service should be closely linked to the single financial guidance body and signpost people seeking housing finance advice to it. (Paragraph 60)

22.Owner-occupiers in low-value housing or in poor condition may not be able to move unless they can access social rented housing or shared ownership. Both shared ownership and Help to Buy could play a more important role in enabling older people to afford to purchase a mainstream home or release equity when they move. We recommend the Government should ensure that providers and lenders make these home ownership options available and transparent for older people and address perceptions that Help to Buy is aimed at first time buyers. We also recommend that the Government should work with lenders and housing providers to ensure one model for shared ownership which would encourage more lenders to offer mortgages, thereby widening access to this initiative, and consider how shared equity can be used for specialist housing. (Paragraph 63)

23.We believe that the options for older social tenants who wish to move are limited. There are wider social advantages in enabling this group to move if they wish to do so, namely the health and wellbeing benefits that can result from more appropriate accommodation and the fact that it can free up homes for families waiting to move. More of all types of housing for older people—extra care, sheltered and accessible housing—need to be built across the social and private sectors. (Paragraph 69)

24.We heard frequent claims that older people moving home in later life could be part of the solution to tackling the housing shortage but little real evidence to support this. We believe that this issue warrants further investigation as there may be wider social advantages in older people moving to a smaller home that better suits their needs. The Government should commission independent research to investigate the impact of ‘rightsizing’ on the housing market. This research should aim to provide a better understanding of how many older people move, where they move to, who moves into the homes they vacate and to what extent this helps to satisfy local demand for homes. (Paragraph 73)

Housing options

25.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. (Paragraph 81)

26.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. (Paragraph 82)

27.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. (Paragraph 84)

28.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. (Paragraph 86)

29.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. (Paragraph 91)

30.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. (Paragraph 92)

31.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. (Paragraph 101)

32.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:

33.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. (Paragraph 107)

34.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. (Paragraph 109)

35.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. (Paragraph 111)

36.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. (Paragraph 111)

Planning and supply of homes for older people

37.We believe that national planning policy should give greater encouragement to the development of housing for older people and ensuring sites are available for a wider range of developers. We recommend that, in the impending review, the NPPF should be amended to emphasise the key importance of the provision of housing for older people in both local authority plan making and decision taking. (Paragraph 114)

38.We recommend that the new standard approach to assessing housing need explicitly addresses the complex and differing housing needs of older people. (Paragraph 116)

39.We believe that older people should be able to choose from a wide choice of housing which can accommodate their needs and preferences. This will include, across the social and private sectors, smaller, or better designed, general needs housing, accessible housing, specialist housing, including retirement homes and extra care housing, and cohousing. To enable them to make this choice, and move to a home which better suits their needs, the guidance required under the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 should recommend that:

40.We believe that the level of planning contributions on specialist housing, which are increased as a result of the non-saleable communal areas which are a feature of this type of housing, is impeding the delivery of homes. We recommend either the creation of a sub-category of the C2 planning classification (which currently applies to residential care and nursing homes) for specialist housing, which would reduce the contributions required from developers, or the creation of a new use class for specialist housing which would have the same effect. (Paragraph 126)

Conclusion: A national strategy

41.The terms of reference for this inquiry asked whether a national strategy on housing provision for older people was needed. The vast majority of those responding said yes, and we have decided to endorse their view. It is a well-known fact that our society is ageing, with 18% of people aged 65 and over and 2.4% aged 85 and over in 2016, and the proportion of people aged 85 projected to double over the next 25 years. While this is something to be celebrated, it also presents challenges as people’s housing needs and preferences change as they grow older and they may want to make changes to the way they live. This is compounded by the fact that older people’s housing needs and options will be diverse in terms of tenure, geographical location, income, equity and individual choice. Furthermore, as the number of issues tackled in this report demonstrates, this is a broad and complex area of policy. We therefore recommend that the Government introduces a new national strategy for older people’s housing, which takes into account the recommendations made in this report. It should be established in consultation with older people and those who provide for them. The strategy should bring together and improve the aspects of policy affecting housing for older people and, recognising the link between housing and health, be closely linked with the social care green paper and the Government’s future work on social care. (Paragraph 127)

8 February 2018