Call for more bungalows to be built for retired home owners

The choice of homes for older people living in rural areas of the UK is limited and developers should consider building more bungalows, according to Parliamentarians.

A report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older people says that a growing number of pensioners face a ‘huge challenge’ to their independence as their two storey family homes become increasingly unsuitable.

It points out that in 20 years, almost half of rural households will be owned by an over 65 year old and it recommends that town councils do more to ensure provision of new homes for pensioners.

The group suggests that either small village developments with ‘six bungalows on an unused scrap of land’ or larger scale retirement schemes in nearby towns would offer better and more suitable choices.

‘For all the advantages of living in the countryside, life can be pretty miserable if your home is no longer right for you, if you can no longer manage the steps and stairs, if maintaining the property is costing too much, if keeping warm is a trial and your energy bills a nightmare, if you can no longer tend the once beautiful garden,’ said Lord Best, the chairman of the group.

‘Indeed, if you need some support and some company, but if these are not to hand, then country living can be tough,’ he added.

The report points out that thanks to schemes like Help to Buy developers tend to concentrate on building homes for first time buyers and are under pressure from planning rules to build more affordable homes.

But when it comes to building homes for older people there are no incentives. The report calls for an emphasis on housing associations, community-led initiatives, small builders and local landowners to help provide what is needed.

The demand for housing suitable for retired people is rising, including a lot of interest in bungalows, according to Clive Fenton, chief executive of retirement house builder McCarthy & Stone.

‘There is a woeful undersupply of retirement housing, including bungalows. Housing, planning and care policy needs to urgently consider the growing needs of the UK’s elderly. The health and social care benefits of bungalows and other types of retirement housing and the role it plays in freeing up housing chains for first time buyers should not be underplayed,’ he said.

He pointed out that in the last 30 years the number of bungalows built each year has dropped from over 26,000 in 1986 to 2,600 in 2017. But the firm is building more of these once maligned single storey homes. It has over 240 bungalows across 15 different schemes.

Fenton also pointed out that the Government’s own research shows that each person who lives in specialist retirement housing saves £30,000 to £60,000 in costs over 25 years. Even taking the more conservative estimate of £30,000, a typical 40 unit retirement scheme averaging 60 people would save £1.8 million over this period, reducing some of the pressure on social care budgets

Another Government study found the typical person aged 60 or over moving to a suitable retirement development saved £3,525 a year in health and social care costs and McCarthy & Stone argues that an increase in the number of retirement properties of 500,000, or just 2% of the households in the UK over the next two decades, would lead to savings of £2.6 billion a year.