Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by Retirement Housing Group (HOU 21)


  The Retirement Housing Group of the House Builders Federation consists of retirement housing developers and housing managers, both RSL and private sector. It ex officio members include representatives of the charity, the Elderly Accomodation Counsel, and the Association of Retirement Housing Managers.

  This evidence deals exclusively with this specialist area of housing and supplements the submission by the House Builders Federation on behalf of developers of general market housing.

  The Group has a wide-ranging interest in planning and management issues, leasehold reform and Government policy of all kinds, which affect vulnerable groups such as the elderly.


  Sheltered housing is

    "housing which is purpose built or converted exclusively for sale to elderly people with a package of estate management services and which consists of grouped, self-contained accommodation with an emergency alarm system, usually with communal facilities and normally with a resident warden."

  This can cover a range of provision from lifestyle housing for the active, newly retired through to warden assisted housing with community facilities and design modifications through to very sheltered housing with high staffing levels and many additional services and facilities.

  The majority of current schemes are warden assisted with occupants of an average age of 75. As such these purchasers and residents, even if still fit, are likely to become increasingly frail and concerned about security.

  The significance of sheltered housing for social and planning policy purposes lies in the enormous challenge our society faces from an ageing population.


  Local authorities have a duty to identify housing need so that they can plan to meet it. The central plank of Government's planning policy guidance, PPG3: Housing, acknowledges that sheltered housing meets a recognised housing need. The DETR "Guide to Good Practice" provides detailed advice on how to conduct surveys of housing needs. It recognises that the assessment of needs for a range of vulnerable groups should be carried out and that older people are a key category amongst such groups. It is clear that the provision of general needs affordable housing sits within the wider assessment of all housing needs. The Group is concerned about the problems likely to arise from trying to meet two housing needs on one site.


  As the questions raised by the Committee in its request for evidence suggest, the Government is considering both fiscal and planning measures to deliver more affordable housing. The Chancellor's Comprehensive Spending Review focused on the former and not all proposals have yet been brought forward by ODPM for deploying the resources he announced then, although some were outlined by Lord Rooker on 18 September. Consequently it is difficult to evaluate them at this stage and debate on the questions asked by the Inquiry is not within the remit of this Group.


  Our earlier submission on affordable housing to the DTLR Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee in May 2002 dealt with many of the issues that are of concern to us.

  However, in addition to those comments we now wish to respond specifically to the question raised in this re-opened Inquiry about the role of planning obligations in providing affordable housing.

  We note that, on 18 July 2002, the Deputy Prime Minister announced that he was withdrawing proposals for a development tariff and that many of the Government's objectives could be delivered without legislative change. Current policy guidance would be revised and "work carried out with relevant stakeholders to create a more streamlined system that would enable the community to share in the benefits arising from development."

  We presume this means that Circulars 1/97 (Planning obligations) and 6/98 (Planning and Affordable Housing) will be re-written to reflect current policy aims. We would urge that the issues we raised in our first submission to the Inquiry earlier this year in the section on "The Appropriateness of Two Housing Needs Categories on One Site" be addressed in any such review.

  In particular, we advocate that the appropriateness of requiring general social housing provision on sheltered housing schemes and its impact on the core object of sheltered housing in meeting the growing needs of an ageing population should be the subject of specific circular guidance.

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