Report says we must boost retirement housing in cities

Older people should be helped to spend their later years in urban retirement housing in town and city centres, rather than heading for the coast or countryside, according to the Social Market Foundation (SMF).

The report, sponsored by housing and regeneration specialist Kajima, found that increasing the number of people who retire in urban areas would benefit both retirees and the country as a whole.

More specialised retirement housing in towns and cities would allow more older people to benefit from urban living, including better public services, as well as better health outcomes and less loneliness, the SMF said.

Slowing the move of older people to rural communities could also benefit those places, with the SMF finding that uneven ageing in different parts of the country is creating unequal and growing pressure on services and local economies.

By 2043, several coastal and rural local authorities will have a majority of households that are retired, with West Somerset forecast to have 59% of its households aged 65+.

The UK has a limited stock of retirement homes, with just 1% of Britons over 60 currently living in specialist retirement properties, compared to 17% in the US.

man and woman sitting on bench in front of beach

Scott Corfe, Research Director at the Social Market Foundation, said: ‘People should always be free to decide where to spend their retirement, but Britain’s housing market means too many people don’t have a full range of options. Better provision of retirement housing in towns and cities would give people more choices.

‘The trend for older people to flee from urban areas to the coast or the countryside can have unforeseen consequences. Too many retirees end up in unsuitable, oversized and often unsafe homes, while rising property prices exclude younger families from local housing. 

‘Local authority areas where the majority of residents are over 65 could struggle to provide their populations with adequate services, and such communities may lack cohesion and intergenerational mixing. Housing options that allowed more older people to choose to retire in towns and cities would offer benefits to retirees, to urban economies and to wider society.’

Kirk Taylor, Development Director at Kajima, added: ‘The number of people over 65 is expected to rise by 7.5-8.5 million during the next 30 years, with the percentage of over-65s set to rise from almost 20% to around 25% by the end of this decade. Yet many live in homes that are too large for them. More than three million family homes are deemed to be underoccupied in this way – while there’s a shortage of homes for young families.

‘An expansion of retirement housing, with smart safety features and a community focus, would help meet the needs of older people, whilst increasing the availability of our existing housing stock for younger generations looking to start their own families.

‘As just one example, at Kajima we have worked with Newcastle City Council to deliver more affordable housing that keeps local older residents in their community. So there is an appetite and opportunity here for the UK Government and local authorities to work with firms like Kajima, who are developing and investing in new and existing communities, to deliver retirement housing that can both improve lives and address the housing crisis.’

In related news, work has begun on a £40m council housing development which will regenerate Throstle Recreation Ground and the former Middleton Skills Centre in Leeds.

Photo by James Hose Jr


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