London must ‘clarify’ future housing offer for its elderly

Capital faces a 48% rise in the number of over 60s and 70% increase in over 80s by 2035 – with evidence suggesting they won’t be moving out.

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Facing a 48% rise over 60s and a 70% increase in over 80s, London needs to ‘clarify’ a housing offer for its elderly that is currently complex and poorly understood.

That’s the finding of a report Housing Older Londoners, the result of six months of research with Arup, Barton Willmore, British Land and Pollard Thomas Edwards.

With Future of London, these organisations looked at how the capital should manage the expected 48% rise in the number of over 60s and a 70% increase in over 80s by 2035 – on the basis that assumptions of retirees moving to the country are outdated.

A desire to stay puts London’s booming older population into direct competition for housing and space with families, professionals and students.

The report finds that while the latter groups can be more asset-poor, most can increase their income, something out of the question for many older people.

With the capital’s housing offer for older people acknowledged as complex and poorly understood, the report recognises a huge gap in the middle market between sheltered housing and high end.

Unleashing the potential here will, the report says, require a clear offer; a sector with a unified voice; and policy and legislative changes.

Other recommendations include:

  • Planning & Policy: raising the profile of older people and addressing gaps

Where older people have very diverse needs and aspirations yet historically have been treated as a single homogenous group, the report says local authorities need to better understand the dynamics of the ageing population – with consultation and use of health data building a more accurate picture of local need.

  • Neighbourhoods: joined-up thinking for health, accessibility and inclusivity.

With everyday environment crucial for health and wellbeing it requires cross-organisational and cross sector working.

Establishing ambassadors for older people within local authorities and housing associations can co-ordinate strategy and delivery across teams could help ensure the needs of older people are understood and met.

Future of London’s Chief Executive, Lisa Taylor said the research revealed a “strong, shared” desire from investors, developers, local authorities, housing associations and designers to improve the housing offer for older people, and specifically to address the alarming middle market gap.

“It’s time to take this broad will and convert it into action through an older peoples’ housing sector manifesto that raises its profile and establishes a unified voice to influence plan-making and policy,” she said.

“Inclusive design and policy is central to London’s future growth and prosperity,” says Sowmya Parthasarathy, Associate Director, Arup, and Mayor’s Design Advocate.

“If the city is to continue to succeed, built environment professionals must recognise and respond to the opportunities, as well as the challenges, presented by an ageing society.

“We should all advocate for the design of spaces and places that accommodate all generations, this diversity is a key ingredient in the development of a rich, vibrant and liveable city.”

The report highlights examples of success from as far afield as Kashiwa City in Japan where the focus is on the social integration of the neighbourhood not just its housing.

Pioneering models can also be found much closer to home such as New Ground in Barnet – the UK’s first co-housing project for older residents.

Opened in 2016, New Ground was 20 years in the making.

The six women pioneers who formed Older Women’s CoHousing (OWCH) for women over the age of 50 were supported by architects, Pollard Thomas Edwards.

Pollard Thomas Edwards’ Partner, Patrick Devlin said, “Everyone is agreed on the need for high quality housing for older Londoners; Older Women’s CoHousing have shown how it can be done.

“It has been inspiring to work with a group of women of such focus and enthusiasm, and to see how beautifully they are inhabiting their homes.

“New Ground should be a strong encouragement to other committed and organised groups to realise their own dream projects.”

Large scale developments need to work with communities and bring these groups in as early as possible, an approach British Land are championing at Canada Water with their Canada Water Masterplan.

A new town centre including 3500 homes will appeal to a broader market including an older generation and moving away from the narrow and volatile markets of young professionals and overseas off-plan sales.

Emma Cariaga, Head of Operations for Canada Water, British Land said, “If we want to continue to support our city we need to ensure it is a place that is attractive to all generations.

“The Future of London older people’s housing manifesto will help to create places where generations can come together, support one another and make social connections – i will make meaningful in-roads into resolving rising levels of loneliness and social isolation.

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