Memorandum by Retirement Housing Group
The Retirement Housing Group of the House Builders
Federation consists of retirement housing developers and housing
managers, both RSL and private sector. Its ex officio members
include representatives of the charity, the Elderly Accommodation
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.
The statistics are well known; by 2021 it is
expected that, out of a population of 65.5 million, 12.2 million
will be over 65. In 1999 9 million out of 59.5 million were over
65. The greatest increase overall from 2001 will be in the over
85s, but the 70-79 age group will grow rapidly after 2011.
The significance of this ageing population is
that the large majority of households aged over 60 are in owner-occupied
housing and between 2001 and 2021 the number of owner-occupied
households aged 65 and over is expected to rise from 4.8 million
to 6.9 million.
Since 1993 the Government's Foresight programme
has been looking at the implications of an ageing population for
the UK and has urged the adoption of measures to ensure full participation
and the avoidance of dependency amongst elderly people for as
long as possible.
In 2001 the Government published "Quality
and Choice for Older People's Housing: A Strategic Framework".
It states that:
"Moving to good quality sheltered housing
in both the public and private sectors is a positive experience
for many older people. It enables older people to retain their
independence in a home appropriate to their needs whilst receiving
support, security and companionship . . . It is clear that the
role and purpose of the range of sheltered housing schemes needs
to be both clarified and promoted within the health, housing and
social care agendas given its preventative role . . . extra care
or very sheltered housing can provide high levels of on-site care
and support that previously were only available from a residential
Sheltered housing is therefore one of the routes
by which Government wishes to see diversity and choice delivered
to elderly people and, as the above quote mentions, to reduce
the burden on local health and social services as well as promoting
residents' quality of life.
However it is and will remain only one partprobably
a relatively small but important partof the range of housing
options available to the elderly. Staying put remains the preferred
choice of most. It is important to note that, for the vast majority
of purchasers of sheltered housing, the move to such accommodation
is driven by need rather than choice (death of spouse, increasing
frailty and declining health) and allows them to prolong an independent
lifestyle, rather than being obliged to move to residential care
or nursing homes (whose numbers are reducing significantly and
are likely to continue to do so for both legislative and financial
However, when elderly owner-occupiers do move
to sheltered housing they generally free up an under-occupied
family house. Moreover, since sheltered housing is almost entirely
built in accessible urban locations, it contributes to the sustainable
regeneration of towns and cities. Elderly residents then support
local facilitiesespecially shops and post offices. Car
dependency and use by residents is lower than in general market
housing. By virtue of its location its elderly occupiers are well
integrated into the community for as long as they are able to
be, whilst also enjoying a degree of security and absence of worry
about property maintenance and other tasks, which have become
increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for them. With the
burden of home maintenance and fears of safety and security removed,
overall mental and physical health improves, reducing pressure
on local authority social services and the NHS.
However whilst its role in urban regeneration
is very important it must not be forgotten that it can also be
a vital means of supporting village communities where there is
often a lower general affordable housing threshold.
The Group fully recognises a need for general
needs affordable housing and we do not seek to undermine its provision
as part of planning and housing policy. However, there is also
a clear and growing need for proper provision to be made for specialised
housing for the elderlyparticularly in the private sector
given the high incidence of owner occupation. These should be
seen as complementary and not competing ways of meeting housing
Sheltered housing is serving both an important
special need and generally. Both Circular 6/98 and PPG3 acknowledge
that sheltered housing meets a recognised housing need. PPG3 makes
it clear that a number of housing need categories should be recognised
and taken into account when local authorities make assessments
of housing need. They include housing to help meet the needs of
specific groups, such as the elderly. Paragraphs 11 and 13 of
PPG3 require local authorities to give specific recognition to
the need for housing for the elderly. This gives housing for the
elderly a distinct profile as a potential requirement to be met
within overall provision and it is given equal weight with affordable
The issue of the provision of affordable housing
in relation to retirement housing schemes is raising difficulties
which this Group hopes the Inquiry will consider.
Bearing in mind the special characteristics
of sheltered housing, both in financial terms (ie its cost structure)
and the market need it seeks to satisfy, the provision on site
of general needs affordable housing will rarely be appropriate.
Sheltered housing has a significantly different
cost profile to open market for sale housing. It is far more expensive
to provide because of its often extensive non-saleable communal
space, ranging from 25-40 per cent of the internal space, depending
on the type of scheme. Its cash-flow, and thus financing profile
is different, in that, unlike open market housing, the entire
development (including landscaping and staffing) must be completed
before its customers will buy. The application of affordable housing
quotas derived from general open market housing is not appropriate
and will make many schemes non viable.
The majority of the land on which retirement
housing is built is brownfield urban sites, for which there is
increasing competition with other land uses, such as commercial,
industrial or retail development. These sites are inherently expensive
to redevelop (remediation costs etc) and they will be lost to
sheltered housing and developed for other uses, such as fast food
outlets, with a resultant loss to future residents and the community,
it further layers of cost for affordable housing are added.
Perhaps most importantly, costs must be kept
down so that sheltered housing remains affordable for elderly
people. Most sheltered housing schemes now average about 30 units.
If management and support costs, rather than being shared by all,
are payable only by elderly residents, they will become proportionately
much more expensive and beyond the reach of many elderly people.
Second is the question of the appropriateness
of mixing tenants of general needs housing with elderly residents
of sheltered housing, given the specific objectives of sheltered
housing and the needs of its elderly occupants.
On very large sites where housing for the elderly
can form part of a mixed community development there can be affordable
housing and retirement accommodation. This is different to insisting
on provision on small sites that has the effect of being neither
fish nor fowlit compromises the achievement of proper housing
for the elderly whilst failing to create satisfactory conditions
for general purpose affordable housing.
Most urban sites on which this type of housing
is built are not large and the typical sheltered scheme, which
is both viable for developers, given the non-saleable space, and
acceptable to purchasers, is between 30 and 50 units. The majority
of these are flatted developments and physical separation of elderly
people from young singles or families with young children is not
As noted above, by virtue of the urban location
of most sites for sheltered housing, the elderly residents do
remain integrated in society. However, as they become increasingly
frail, they are seeking an increase in security, which may be
impossible to maintain if general needs tenants are mixed with
elderly people in small sheltered schemes. Clearly, they cannot
share the specialist staffing and communal facilities provided
for the elderly, which are both the essence of that security and
for which they pay.
The inclusion of another category of special
needs within what is already a special need is inappropriate to
the elderly residents' needs and is likely to affect the saleability
and therefore the flow of such schemes onto the market, where
"one size fits all" policies for social housing are
Although this is a small part of the housing
stock, with currently only some 2,500 sheltered units per year
being built, we hope the Inquiry will recognise the importance
of maintaining and encouraging a type of housing provision which
must play an important role in meeting the needs of an ageing
population, and will distinguish between what is an appropriate
policy for open market housing and what is appropriate to sheltered
housing, if it is to be able to make its full contribution to
diversity and choice of provision for the UK's ageing population.
In view of the factors described above, we therefore
propose that the test of "appropriateness" should be
added to policy guidance when considering affordable housing in
relation to proposals for sheltered housing.