BLOG: Tackling the housing crisis for an ageing population

David Currie, Land and Partnerships Director, reflects on the current market for retirement living and Extra Care developments – following national headlines that a housing crisis for older people is looming.

Deeley Group has expanded significantly into the care and Extra Care sectors in recent years. This has led to £60 million worth of schemes being delivered since 2018, with seven projects having seen a total of 168 care home beds and 275 Extra Care Units.

There is a shortage of housing all over the UK, it is a hot topic on social media and regularly discussed in high-profile national and trade media.

However, much of the conversation centres around affordability, getting onto the housing ladder and first-time buyers… but what about those who are at the opposite end of that journey?

Latest research indicates that there will be 3.1 million people in the UK aged over 85 by 2045 – that’s a huge rise from the 1.6 million recorded in 2019.

Of course, this has prompted interest from central government and in February the Levelling Up White Paper detailed plans to launch a taskforce with the specific responsibility of housing for older people.

At the Deeley Group, we have a proven track record for delivering developments that provide the right support for the needs of older people.

In 2020, in the heart of Coventry, we completed a three-storey, 45 apartment scheme for the elderly. Bond’s Lodge, a £6.8 million development, created a mini-community right in the city centre.

Meanwhile, our work for to create the £7.5 million Woodside Care Village in Warwick has achieved national recognition – being named Winner of Best Purpose Built Accommodation at the Local Authority Building Control (LABC) Building Excellence Awards 2021.

This is a project we’re very proud of and we’re particularly proud of how it has enhanced the quality of life for residents living with dementia. It’s a remarkable facility, a real community for those who live there, with each household still having its own kitchen, dining and living spaces.

A big part of our success has been our partnerships – with the strength of our partnership with Housing 21 in particular delivering three Extra Care developments.

Willow Gardens offers independent living with access to on-site care for people over the age of 55, with 80 one and two bed apartments. It was Housing 21’s first Extra Care scheme in Chipping Norton and helped to provide a vital supply of homes to that community.

We continue to work with Housing 21 on its Poppy Meadows Extra Care scheme in Didcot, which again provides 80 apartments for over 55s – and work has recently commenced on another £13 million Extra Care scheme for Housing 21 in Telford.

This is joined by our ongoing development of a specialist care home in Walsall for Exemplar Health Care – which is due to open in 2023. Every development is different, and this is a one-of-a-kind facility in Walsall – helping those who have suffered an accident to receive the specialist care that they need close to their home and loved ones.

We currently have four projects on site and four other projects in negotiation – and we’re working across the Midlands and surrounding areas to help support the needs for more senior living accommodation.

There are high levels in investment in the sector, and research from Knight Frank indicates that £1.8 billion has been committed by investors into later living so far this year. The survey, which was detailed in Property Week, also indicated that 70 per cent of respondents hope to invest in the retirement sector by 2026.

However, there are the same prevalent factors holding back the sector which inevitably prevents the delivery of schemes to meet the demands of the retirement living market.

The most impactful is the high price and relatively limited availability of land in the right location and  even if you are able to identify and control a site, you will then experience the challenges of delays in the planning process.

The difficulties in obtaining consent on schemes of this type are numerable and hopefully the taskforce announced in the White Paper can support with this, although the underlying issue is the long-term underinvestment in local government.

I think it is clear that local authorities should also have a directive to include a housing provision for older people in their housing need plans.

There shouldn’t be any barriers and housing provision for elderly people can be in the heart of our towns and cities.  This must be a key feature to most if not all local authorities re-purposing strategy for town centres, as we have proved with Bond’s Lodge, in Coventry City Centre.

There is a need nationally for more care, Extra Care and retirement living developments, and regionally that is being reflected too.

We’re seeking partnerships, land and construction opportunities to help tackle the impending housing crisis for the elderly.

Whether that is working directly with operators or local authorities, we are in a position to help and have the strength to take on difficult sites to find solutions.

I can be contacted at david.currie@deeley.co.uk