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Social housing green paper should address ‘dearth’ of retirement housing

Words: Laura Edgar
Retirement housing / iStock_670054130

County councils have called on the government to ensure that its social housing green paper encourages planning reforms address the ‘dearth of retirement and supported housing’ in the country.

Sustainable Social Care: A Green Paper that Delivers a New Deal for Counties details the County Councils Network’s (CCN) policy position on adult social care in advance of the government’s social housing green paper.

It was thought that the green paper would be published before Parliament’s summer recess, but Inside Housing quotes a Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson as saying it will be published “shortly”.

The CCN thinks county councils should have a more prominent role in the planning and administering of grant funding. The government should provide the impetus for the developers to build supported housing, according to the report.

The counties’ representative body cites population projections that suggest that households with occupants aged 85 and over in country areas will rise from 491,000 to 1,254 million – an increase of 155 per cent. Rural areas account for over half of England’s projected growth in over-85s.

The number of over-65s will rise by 1.9 million, which represents 28 per cent of the total population in counties.

Currently, the report notes, only 1 per cent of over-60s in England live in retirement properties. It estimates that 30,000 a year are needed to fulfil the demand but citing a report from Demos, published last year, just 7,200 are developed a year.

David Williams, health and social care spokesman for the CCN, said: “Our analysis of population projections shows the very real prospect of the country sleepwalking into a hidden elderly housing crisis, with a real dearth of later-living properties to fulfil demand and a shortage of adequate accommodation for when people are ready to leave hospital. Failure to address this now will only store up problems for the future, especially on the wider health service.

“This report sets out policy proposals for government ahead of the social care green paper. The status quo is no longer an option; ministers must be bold in ensuring sustainable financial reform, both for the system and for individuals. With care services and the NHS interdependent, investing in one but not the other is financially irresponsible.”

CCN recommends a “four-pronged” approach to ensure that housing is provided for elderly people and to reduce pressure on social care services:

  • National housing policy should be strengthened to make sure that planning authorities have clear policies for addressing housing requirements for people with specific needs. The government should make Part M (4) Category 2 (accessible, adaptable) the mandatory minimum for the construction of all new homes, the equivalent of the former Lifetime Homes standard.
  • There must be a closer alignment between social care authorities (county councils) and district councils (planning authorities) in planning for disabled facilities and administering grant funding.
  • Government must consider how to encourage developers to increase the level of construction of retirement housing, potentially by changing its planning classification. At present, retirement housing currently falls into the same planning class as general use housing, meaning that retirement housing developers face the same Section 106 charges to fund affordable housing as developers of general housing.
  • With housing and social care intrinsically linked, county councils should have a stronger role in the planning process in two-tier areas. The CCN has argued that the county councils’ role in the proposed statement of common ground must be strengthened, and they should be formal signatories on matters relating to adult social care.

Image credit | iStock