Report reveals shortage of housing for older people in London

London is building less than half of the specialist homes it needs as its population ages, Centre for London has found.
An older man, pictured from behind, sitting on a chair near a window at home.
An older man sitting on a chair at home. Credit: The Centre for Ageing Better/CC BY-ND 4.0

Too many older Londoners are unable to access specialist housing which would help them live independently for longer, according to a new report.

The report, by think tank Centre for London, reveals that London is building less than half of the specialist homes its older residents need as land costs make other forms of housing more financially appealing for developers.

This gap between supply and demand is only likely to grow as the number of Londoners aged 65+ is expected to increase by 29% over the next decade, mostly in Inner London, the think tank has warned.

The authors of the report have called on local and national government for a more coordinated approach to building homes that suit London’s range of older residents.

Claire Harding, research director at Centre for London, said: “Older people make a vital contribution to our city and their wants and needs are diverse.

“All Londoners deserve to have a genuine choice about where and how to live as they age but we can’t offer choice if there aren’t enough homes for older people to start with.

“It’s vital that policy makers take this need seriously, and focus both on providing enough homes and making sure people understand the options available to them as they age.”

The report, Third Age City: Housing for older Londoners, has received the backing of various London councils as well as Newham’s housing company Populo Living.

Older people have three main housing options available to them as they age: mainstream housing, specialist housing specifically designed for older people, and care homes.

The report finds that Inner London boroughs are building just 25% of the specialist homes required each year to reach London-wide targets.

While Outer London is faring better, these homes are unevenly distributed between boroughs, with some local authorities actually losing homes as existing older people’s housing is converted to other uses.

Building new homes alone will not be enough to fill the gap, as existing homes must be made easier to adapt and new homes designed with adaptations from the outset, the report adds. Older people also struggle to find information about the housing options available to them.

Centre for London has urged every London borough to set targets for specialist housing in local plans and proactively shape the range of older people’s housing being built.

New build homes should be designed to be more adaptable and flexible, such as by including step-free entrances, while the government should develop a ‘New Homes Bonus’ that rewards councils who deliver specialist housing, the think tank added.

Jason Leek, CEO of Riverstone which sponsored the report, said: “This report clearly demonstrates the need for more specialist housing in London to cater for our ageing population.

“Specialist housing or retirement living also has the ability to help unlock the housing market and reduce the burden on public health services. We champion this report which will help further educate government, local authorities and the wider industry of the value that specialist housing can bring to our great city.”

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