This week, The Daily Mail reported that the government is attempting to address the retirement housing crisis. New housing minister, Brandon Lewis, called for more bungalows to be built for older people to free up larger homes for families. He says that this would allow couples living in large proprieties to downsize without being forced into a ‘retirement home’ or apartment.
Building more bungalows was on the government’s agenda last year too when think tank Policy Exchange urged the reform of the planning system to encourage developers to build more bungalows which would be attractive to older people. They suggested there were 25 million spare bedrooms among the older population which they claimed was due in part to the shortage of available bungalows which was preventing people from downsizing.
Bungalows make up just 2% of England’s homes; however, there is also a shortage of purpose built retirement housing. Government must recognise that a number of different property options, both for sale or rent, are required to suit people of all ages and budgets.
By 2021 it is expected the number of households will increase by 2.2 million, with 1.2 million of these expected to be households over 65 years old. We are delighted that the Minister is discussing these issues, with one proviso: is building more bungalows the only solution and why are retirement homes or apartments being branded as second rate?
Bungalows are not for everyone. From our own experience, we are hearing that many older people want to downsize in later life to retirement apartments within a purpose built complex that also offers secure, community style living, and additional support services that suit their needs as they get older. Such services include having access to an emergency care line and the provision of a House Manager who looks after the running of the development and the welfare of its residents.
Even if the new retirees don’t want these facilities, they are usually pleased to get rid of the worries on home maintenance such as cleaning the gutters, fixing the roof and keeping the garden under control, none of which go away when downsizing to a bungalow.
As people get older they need to be part of a community where they can easily access all the services they need. Many people also suffer from loneliness and living in a retirement community can prevent this.
We call upon the Housing Minster and the government to realise that building more bungalows is just one solution and should be incorporated into a ‘cross-party’ policy to build more purpose built retirement properties that challenge the existing preconceptions of retirement living.
Peter Girling, Chairman of Girlings Retirement Rentals