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Could A Special Use Classification Boost Supply of Later Living?

By Charles Taylor, director of new business. Anchor

At Anchor, we are optimistic about the prospects for our sector in 2022. As 2021 ended and 2022 began, there were encouraging signs that the crucial role of older people in our society is now being recognised and that the foundations for reform are being laid.

We welcome the government’s commitment to boosting the development of specialist housing in the Social Care White Paper. The white paper’s announcement of £300 million to integrate housing into local health and care strategies, with a focus on increasing the range of new specialist housing options available, is an important step in the right direction.

Anchor has, for many years, championed how vital the right housing can be in improving health and wellbeing amongst older people and reducing the strain on higher-cost health and social care services.  The pandemic has also highlighted the emotional and social benefits of retirement communities – factors which will continue to have a greater influence on peoples’ decisions when deciding how they want to spend their later life.

The recent Levelling Up White Paper also contained some encouraging components, not least the government’s intention to create a task force focusing on housing for older people to guide policy in the sector. Anchor has long called for a task force on later life housing to be set up, and we are now calling for its establishment at the earliest opportunity to fully engage with a range of providers and unlock investment and drive development to create more homes where people love living in later life.

We have had residents at many of our developments describe how living in our retirement communities helped prevent worries of isolation during lockdowns. For example, Ruth Maynard, a resident at our Hampshire Lakes development in Yateley, explained how the community truly “pulled together to ensure no one felt isolated or lonely”. She went on to say that, had she been in her old home, it’s highly unlikely she would have seen anyone during the lockdowns.

Sandra Sudlow, a resident at our Bishopstoke Park development in Eastleigh, founded a daily bulletin – to keep residents informed during the first lockdown. This bulletin evolved into a place for amusing stories, jokes, and positive thoughts to be shared amongst the residents to keep spirits high. Sandra also described how the Anchor management team at the development are always on hand to help, citing the shopping and catering service provided ensuring that residents always felt reassured in their health and safety.

Stories like these exemplify that residing in a later living scheme helps generate a sense of community and togetherness that some in later life might not otherwise experience. Only 0.6% of over-65s in the UK live in specialist retirement housing and there are just 720,000 retirement properties across the country. There is a growing demand from customers, but the number of new build homes is not keeping pace with this demand and the increasing ageing population.

The creation of a new planning classification for retirement housing could help to unlock the pending investment in the market by simplifying the system for developers and providers in the sector while bringing later living accommodation to the forefront of the housing shortage conversation. A dedicated classification will also serve to improve understanding of the sector among local authorities across the country, help to increase the amount of retirement housing included in Local Plans and a smoother planning process

Our partnership with McCarthy Stone, which will see us deliver a range of ‘affordable for all’ later living communities, will help the sector take great strides in delivering high-quality later living accommodation at scale. The partnership exemplifies how the sector can work together to better address the housing shortage. Five schemes have now been approved, with three due to complete within the next 18 months. This forms a key part of our England-wide building programme which continues at pace and we’re on track to deliver 5,700 new units over 10 years

It’s no secret that the UK’s population is ageing with a quarter of the population set to be over-65 by 2050. The later living sector has great potential that can be unlocked through government action, namely by introducing a special use classification for retirement living. Sector collaboration can also ensure that we deliver affordable homes at scale to reduce the strain of the housing shortage. We’re optimistic that 2022 will be a year of reform and that the early success of our partnership with McCarthy Stone, will go a long way.