Research produced by global property consultancy Knight Frank and law firm Irwin Mitchell claims that councils across England are underprepared to provide suitable housing for seniors. By 2037, it is forecast that one in four people in the country will be over 65.

The research has identified 10 opportunity areas ripe for development of seniors’ housing across England. Knight Frank and Irwin Mitchell state they have distinguished areas where there is potential for senior living to develop, as well as those areas where local factors are creating a barrier to progress. 

Lauren Harwood, head of senior living research at Knight Frank says: “This research is released against a backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has placed a particular spotlight on people in their later life. This has made it clear there is a need for local authorities to put plans in place to ensure there is a suitable, age-appropriate choice of housing for seniors.

“There is currently a huge supply and demand imbalance of senior housing in England, which is widening amidst a growing and ageing population. It is vital to increase the provision of seniors housing. This is part of the solution to create more capacity in the social care system while also supporting the wider housing market. With that in mind, it is crucial that developers understand where the opportunities are, and how they can access these to help meet the needs of our seniors.”

Key findings of the survey are:

  • Very few large cities appear to be close to addressing the challenges posed by housing an ageing population. Many major cities are a ‘D’ rating – including Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Leicester, Oxford, Sheffield and Southampton. Leeds is an exception – it has an A rating for planning and performs well in the overall opportunity rankings also.
  • London is increasingly becoming an ageing city and London boroughs exclusively make up the nation’s top 10 ageing local authorities. Its 65-plus population is due to increase by 32% between 2017 and 2029. Despite this, London is underperforming when it comes to delivering housing for its senior citizens, with 22 boroughs currently holding a planning score of ‘D’. While the new draft London Plan recognises the importance of the sector, its record on delivery has been poor. In the first three full years of the plan (2017-2019 inclusive) just over 700 senior living homes per annum were delivered (totalling 2,100 units), compared to the target of 4,115 units per annum (12,345 units over the three-year period).
  • Analysis highlights there are opportunity areas, particularly within the Southwest corridor of London, where there is potential for significant growth. Currently these boroughs perform relatively poorly in the planning score, but nonetheless have other factors firmly in their favour.
  • There are also some boroughs bucking the trend in London. Camden scored highest out of the London boroughs, and second overall in the overall opportunity score for private delivery. Camden has a specific policy supporting seniors housing. Its local plan makes clear affordable housing is likely to be sought with a flexible approach to the scale and location, and residential CIL charging rates apply.
  • Birmingham has a projected growth rate of 22%, and an existing 65-plus population of 150,000 individuals will increase to 183,000 by 2034. Birmingham has the potential to perform much better, but in line with other large cities, its adopted planning policies do not prioritise senior living. Birmingham has no housing allocation, no policies supporting delivery, affordable housing is levied on C2 development and there are no CIL benefits compared with residential development. Since 2010, there has been an average annual delivery of 208 senior living units across the local authority, with no schemes delivered since 2018. Without a change in policy, the survey warns that the city will not meet the needs of its ageing demographic’s housing requirements.
  • By contrast Cheshire West and Chester is a ‘best in class’ local authority, having an allocation for seniors’ housing, a supportive policy environment, a clear position on affordable housing and CIL requirements for C2 use. It is also the only authority to appear in the top 20 opportunity areas for both private and affordable operators.

Date published: July 17, 2020

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