Monday, 22 May 2017

Homes for life

In 2040, a quarter of Britons will be over the age of 65. Austin Macauley reports on the challenge of providing homes they will want to live in

The opening salvo of Pommy-bashing that dominated headlines in Australia at the start of the Ashes briefly gave way to another story. One of Australia’s federal government’s key advisory bodies last month warned of tax rises and a higher pension age as it predicted over-65s would represent a quarter of Australia’s population by 2060.

The impending ‘crisis’ reported by the Australian media puts the UK situation into perspective, as it seems we will reach the same point roughly 20 years earlier.

There are seemingly endless sources of figures to hammer home the scale of our ageing population. Among them the projection by the Office for National Statistics that in 20 years the number of households with someone over the age of 85 will double from 1.4 million in 2010 to just over 2.8 million in 2030.

Over the same period, the proportion of older people with care needs is expected to increase by more than 60 per cent from 675,000 in 2012 to 1.1 million in 2032. Meanwhile, figures from not-for-profit organisation the Housing Learning and Improvement Network suggest the number of people with dementia is likely to double within 30 years, with costs to the economy trebling to £50 billion a year.

What’s clear is the UK’s housing needs are going to shift with these changes. Given that a fifth of the UK’s 15 million older people over the age of 55 live in social housing - and that 57 per cent of all older households across all tenures ‘under-occupy’ their homes - housing associations and other providers could be at the forefront of meeting the demand for smaller, attractive properties.

New opportunities
For those interested in developing this type of housing, two key strands are emerging. First, the degree to which greater integration between health, social care and housing can help providers to support people to continue living independently. The government’s new £3.8 billion integration transformation fund aims to help make that happen in 2015/16 and includes £350 million of capital grant that can be used for interventions like adaptations.

The extent to which social landlords can influence the way money is spent, via clinical commissioning groups and health and well-being boards, will be critical.

But it’s the second strand that could open up new opportunities for social landlords - the need to ramp up the supply of specialist housing for older people, providing this group with the kind of homes they actually want to live in (see case study, page 24). At the moment this type of housing represents less than 1 per cent of the UK’s total stock and the bulk is run by social landlords, mostly in the form of sheltered housing or extra care schemes with onsite support teams and various other facilities. Just 5 per cent of those over the age of 60 live in retirement housing compared with 17 per cent in the US and 13 per cent in Australia.

In 2010 the Homes and Communities Agency published a report by the housing our ageing population: panel for innovation - or Happi - which contained a series of recommendations designed to improve the quality and choice of specialist housing in England. Then, last year, the all-party parliamentary group on housing and care for older people published Happi 2, which highlighted the benefits of improved options and urged the government to make older people’s housing a priority, backed up with financial support for social landlords in the 2013 spending round.

Since then, £300 million has been made available for new homes in the shape of the care and support specialised housing fund. But while Scotland has its own older people’s housing strategy, setting out the Scottish Government’s 10-year vision to boost the supply of suitable housing and support for older people, it looks unlikely to happen in England anytime soon.

Jeremy Porteus, director of Housing LIN and author of Happi 2, says the government’s focus has been on getting the wider housing market moving and highlighting the way under-occupation stifles the supply of family housing. But to persuade older people to downsize, there needs to be an attractive alternative and currently the range of homes designed for older people remains limited.

‘If there are only half a million units of specialist housing, the reality is people are going to have to live in their own homes as long as possible,’ says Mr Porteus. ‘There’s an appetite to improve the way we support people in their own homes. Home improvement agencies and others find they are supporting the tip of the iceberg.

‘They are trying to put the emphasis on what are the key things older people are spending their money on, how they can make housing conditions better. It’s a more strategic way of looking at the whole person.’

Housing and homelessness charity Shelter estimates the supply of specialist housing will need to grow by 70 per cent over the next 20 years just to meet current demand. So substantial development is needed, even with better support to allow people to live in their existing homes. With private developers seemingly unable or unwilling to step up, can social landlords fill the void?

The middle market
Imogen Blood, a consultant and author of a number of Joseph Rowntree Foundation reports on issues concerning older people, believes they are well placed.

‘They are only touching a small part of the market. There is a huge gap when you look at retirement housing. If you are in the middle [those in between the people who qualify for welfare benefits and social housing, and those who are affluent enough to pay for whatever they need] - which an increasing number of people are - and have a relatively small pension, your options are quite limited.

‘For registered providers, that kind of socio-economic group hasn’t always been on their radar. But some are thinking about how they can offer shared equity and affordable housing for them. Increasingly, if people are thinking about building extra care housing, mixed tenure is going to be pretty much the only financially viable option.’

The National Housing Federation’s 2011 report, Breaking the mould, posed the question of whether the social housing sector’s current offer would appeal to retired owner-occupiers. Rona Nicholson, chief operations officer at 19,000-home Hanover, a specialist in older people’s housing, argues that however the sector responds, it must reflect the diversity of needs. ‘It must be about needs - not age - because there’s such diversity. We need to have more of a consumerist approach about the standard of housing and the approach we take to the services we offer.’

This year is Hanover’s 50th anniversary, and to celebrate it invited nine prominent think tanks to contribute to the Hanover@50 debate on housing and ageing. At a recent event, the housing association’s chair, Lord Richard Best, who was also chair of the first Happi report, called on landlords not to ‘miss the middle’, the same group of people Ms Blood believes housing providers should be turning their attention to.

Sheltered housing programmes of the 1960s and 1970s often resulted in very small homes with shared bathrooms, she says, but reports like Happi have put the onus on raising the bar and asking what older people want and need. ‘For those of us growing older, we’re not going to be grateful of anything that comes our way - we want something of good quality.’

Hanover plans to develop 1,250 ‘age-exclusive’ homes by 2016 that are designed for older people who want to downsize but are put off by what is currently available.

Persuading people to downsize for their retirement appears to be an easy sell in Bournville, south of Birmingham. Some 650 people have registered their interest in moving to a retirement village being built by Extra Care Charitable Trust and 8,000-home housing association Bournville Village Trust.

Of the 212 apartments on offer, 70 are for outright purchase, 98 for shared ownership and 44 for affordable rent. It’s the fourth of five villages planned by 3,800-home Extra Care CT and Birmingham Council and follows the development of 180-home Pannel Croft in central Birmingham , which was built in 2012 with £13 million from the HCA and is 80 per cent affordable rent.

Each village has all the care and support seen on other extra care schemes, such as a specialist dementia care team, a gym, and properties designed for people with mobility issues, plus shops, a café and restaurant, library and IT suite. They are also open to the local community.

Nick Abbey, chief executive of Extra Care CT, says the idea is to create ‘a slice of real life’ with people from different backgrounds - including residents with no care needs - that’s ‘terrifically attractive’.

Development model
He believes larger housing associations could replicate the model if they are prepared to build at the necessary scale - around 250 homes - and take on the associated development risk.

‘People will say extra care is a very grant-hungry model,’ he says. ‘What we are showing is if you have this on the right scale you can create a critical mass of scale to enable cross-subsidy.’

There are issues around the level of subsidy needed in areas where house prices are low and potential residents lack equity (the proceeds from the sale of their current properties) he says, but the health outcomes and boost to the local economy in jobs and community facilities create a strong argument for financial support from the government to subsidise the development of older people’s housing.

To that end Mr Abbey recently commissioned research to look at the impact on the lives of Extra Care CT’s residents. Social landlords need to sell the importance of their role to professionals already working in older care, he concludes.

‘We need to be better as a sector at talking to colleagues in adult services and health and proving to them that investment in these services pays back in the long term.’

Case study: Red Bank

The Red Bank extra care scheme in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, mirrors the changing face of specialist housing for older people.

It was built on the site of a residential home and replaces outdated sheltered housing with modern apartments in a retirement village that includes a bistro and hair salon - both of which are open to the public.

The £5 million scheme, part-funded through £2.9 million from the Homes and Communities Agency, opened in 2012 and this year was named among Inside Housing’s top 50 affordable developments. It was built in partnership by 8,000-home arm’s-length management organisation Six Town Housing and Bury Council.

One in seven people in Greater Manchester are pensioners, but much of the area’s sheltered housing consists of bedsits with shared bathrooms.

Red Bank couldn’t have come at a better time for 82-year-old Beryl Ashworth, its first resident. She had been a tenant in a Six Town Housing property in nearby Whitefield for 28 years and had no intention of moving.

‘Until Red Bank presented itself I hadn’t thought about moving into extra care,’ she says. ‘I’m so glad I did because it has met all my expectations and more. My family know that support is onsite and I feel safe and well supported. There’s a fabulous bistro, a hairdresser and lots of activities to get involved in. I’m very happy. There is no way I would leave - I’m content and comfortable.’

Tenants range in age from 57 to 98 and there’s an equal split of people with low, medium and high-care needs to give a very different feel from the traditional image of older people’s housing. There have even been some ‘reversals’ with residents moving from medium to low needs, according to Maria Worthington, business manager for neighbourhoods at Six Town Housing.

She puts the success down to ‘a mix of it being a really nice place to live, the atmosphere of the place, the social life - it really is like a hotel’.

These links are provided as part of Inside Housing’s partnership with the CIH. Inside Housing is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

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