Prime Minister urged to build 30,000 new homes a year for older people in recovery plan

Chief executives of the UK’s largest retirement housing providers warn in letter to Boris Johnson that his recovery drive will be “running on empty” without action to help millions of older people who want to downsize

The UK’s three largest specialist retirement developers have urged the Government to set a target of making 10% of new housing specifically for older people.

The Prime Minister looks set to prioritise housebuilding to help boost economic recovery. But in a letter to Boris Johnson, Homes for Later Living warn that “the recovery drive will be running on empty if we don’t take urgent action to help the millions of people who actively want to downsize”.

The letter has been sent to Number 10 by the chief executives of the three largest specialist retirement providers – John Tonkiss (McCarthy & Stone), Spencer J McCarthy (Churchill Retirement Living) and Mark Dickinson (Lifestory Group) – who recently established the Homes for Later Living policy group.

It sets out the social and economic benefits of building 30,000 new retirement properties a year to cater for an ageing population. It says specialist retirement housing across all its forms should be central to the effort to get the housing market restarted, while also helping ensure that vulnerable people are better protected against future pandemics. In the letter, the group highlights how they have seen extremely low levels of infection from COVID-19 among their residents, who are typically over 80.

The group argues that prioritising a proportion of new homes for an ageing population would:

  • Stimulate transactions throughout the housing market, helping young families and first-time buyers move onto and up the ladder. A former Treasury economist has calculated that encouraging more older people to downsize would free up housing for young families looking for a family-sized home with a garden. And, through the chain effect running through the housing market, every specialist retirement property sold results in another two to three further transactions in the chain.
  • Boost the health and happiness of older people. Research commissioned by the group shows that residents in their properties feel as good as someone 10 years younger after moving from mainstream housing to housing specially designed for later living.
  • Generate fiscal savings to the NHS and social care services of approximately £3,500 per person per year as people in specialist retirement properties are less likely to be admitted to hospital and require further care than people in mainstream housing. This means that building 30,000 more retirement housing dwellings every year for the next 10 years would generate additional fiscal savings across the NHS and social services of £1.4bn per year within a decade.

The letter goes on to say that, “Building more specialist retirement housing would be a win-win for the Government. It would unlock the housing market, helping older people, young families and first-time buyers. It would also assist with attempts to fix the social care crisis once and for all.

“With the number of older people in England growing significantly, the time to act is now. The Government has given the housing market the green light to get moving again and we welcome this. But the risk is that the recovery drive will be running on empty if we don’t take urgent action to help the millions of people who actively want to downsize.”