Land costs holding back development of retirement communities

Large scale retirement communities are 20 years away as land costs and funding hold back development, a new Winckworth Sherwood survey has found.


Access and cost of land was the single largest barrier to dedicated retirement communities being developed.

Winckworth Sherwood in a survey of 300 housing, health and social care professions asked: what holds back the retirement living market and why the UK, unlike the US and Australia, has not yet seen the rise of dedicated retirement communities?

28% of respondents told the firm the availability and costs of land are the single largest barrier, followed by a lack of funding (22%).

A further 13% blame the cost of development and construction, with 9% pointing the finger at the planning regime in England.

36% of respondents said that large scale retirement villages are still a decade away, with 40% believing we will have to wait at least 20 years.

Charlotte Cook, Partner in the Real Estate and Social Housing team at Winckworth Sherwood, said: “Our survey reports that housing, health and social care professionals believe that government needs to play a greater role in supporting the sector.

“Over a quarter (27%) say that retirement housing needs a dedicated use class to help local planning authorities. A quarter recognise that fees and charges are complicated and need to be simplified, and just under a quarter (23%) believe their needs to be an increase in grants.”

Over half (54%) of the Winckworth Sherwood and Housing LIN respondents say the bungalows remain the most desirable property option, with just a third (35%) preferring flats. And an overwhelming 72% want them in or close to a thriving town centre.

Charlotte adds: “The dream of a retirement cottage in the country with roses around the door is a myth. Just 10% of professionals surveyed told us that this is what their active elderly residents want.

“What they really want is space for friends and family to stay (21%) and good transport links to amenities (19%).

“They are also clear in that they do not want their retirement home to be a care home. Just 14% want access to care options.”

A second survey of 1,002 British adults aged 50 and over conducted by YouGov for Winckworth Sherwood found that 68% would prefer not to live in a retirement home or community. Just 15% said they would prefer to live in a dedicated retirement community.

The survey found that 83% were concerned over uncertainty of costs of living in a retirement facility, and 67% believed such places to be just too depressing.

64% raised concerns over restrictions on being able to pass on the retirement home to family members in their Will, and the same number were concerned about only living with other retirees.

Charlotte Cook said: “The design and tenure of homes plays an important role. We have long argued that our last home should be the pinnacle of an individual’s housing journey and not one of compromise.

“One size does not fit all, and we would expect to see new housing offers with an increasing variety of tenures emerge.”

Despite the preference for independent living, the British adults aged 50 and over surveyed by YouGov did recognise the advantages retirement communities can offer, with 60% saying they would be unconcerned about meeting people and making new friends and with 55% believing that loneliness would not be a problem.

Similar stories by tag