There are currently 7.7million spare bedrooms, within 5.3million under-occupied homes, in the UK. A possible to solution to the housing crisis, but one which won’t shift with the current shortage of suitable housing for older people.
These 5.3million homes belong to the section of the housing market known as ‘last-time buyers’, older people looking to downsize into suitable smaller houses or flats.
In turn, once older people move into ‘specialist homes’, these houses are available as much-desired family homes. In particular the need is seen in growing business centres, such as Cambridge and Bristol, where a lack of family housing is stifling the growth of big businesses who need homes to house executives and their families.
Encouraging older people to downsize, and move into ‘specialist homes’ also has an economic benefit for all, as dedicated ‘Housing with Care’ is known to reduce the cost of social services towards the end of people’s lives. Social services being one of the largest burden on the government’s purse strings.
For people living on their own, the cost of care in the last two years of their life poses a huge pressure on government’s social and health spending. Alternatively, living in specially designed housing, with an emphasis on ‘quality of life’, this reduces the period of decline at the end of someone’s life, and therefore reduces the cost to society for caring for the elderly.
There are 3.3m ‘last-time buyers’ looking to downsize, the majority of whom own their homes outright. So with a willing and well-funded market, what is there stopping the rise of specialist private elderly housing?
One company who are taking advantage of this growing market is Pegasus Life, only founded in 2012, they are now on track to be the 5th largest housing developer in the UK within 2 years.
Their biggest challenge, is also a design challenge, “creating a proposition that is seductive”, in order to tempt those ‘last-time buyers’ in large houses to downsize to a bespoke design apartment. Their approach is to buy key sites, use excellent architects and a Design Guide which reads like a guide for 5-star spa design. Alongside this, each of their developments is managed by a not-for-profit ‘Estate Management’ team, with all lessees being are shareholders of the company, and ‘transparent accounting’ illustrating the sensibly continuous investment in sinking funds.
Supporting these high-quality developments, which could have a uniquely positive impact on the housing crisis, should surely be a priority for all local authorities.
Hopton Almshouses - perhaps a precursor to specialist homes. Image credit Reading Tom.
John Norden, Creative Director of Pegasus Life presenting to UDL in September 2015. Image credit Mellis Haward.