Churchill Campaigning for The Importance of Specialised Retirement Housing
Spencer McCarthy, CEO of Churchill Retirement Living, is actively campaigning to ensure that Government planning policy acknowledges the importance of building more specialised retirement properties.
Churchill, as one of the leading retirement property developer’s in the UK, has seen profits jump 52% this year as a direct result of increasing demand, however McCarthy is not confident that enough is being done to effectively meet the growing need for specialised accommodation for older people.
We are all aware that the UK has an aging population and it is expected that by 2033 the number of people over 65 will rise by over 40%, totalling over 16 million people. Yet, the focus for the Government’s housing development plans is on starter homes and affordable housing for people at the bottom of the ladder. Churchill believes that there should be a greater focus on retirement housing which will free up more family homes and ensure that older people’s needs are properly met.
The International Longevity Centre UK (ILC-UK) has recently issued a report on the state of the nation’s housing which highlights increasing numbers of older people living alone and in under-occupied homes. Almost 90% of people in the 65-79 age group live in an under-occupied house and over 50% live in homes with two or more unused bedrooms. However, when it comes to unlocking these larger houses problems are found at every turn.
Difficulty in Downsizing
One of the issues McCarthy feels is not being properly addressed is the numerous difficulties faced by retirees when it comes to downsizing. It is never an easy decision to leave the home you’ve raised your family in, however many people find that their large family home is ever more difficult and expensive to maintain in older age. Plus, particularly with those who now live alone, many pensioners find their large house too big. Although, even for those that want to downsize to a property that better suits their lifestyle there are many obstacles in the way.
Spencer McCarthy explains how “Stamp duty remains a prohibitive barrier for many, and despite recent changes to the system, we believe there is still more that should be done for older people.” It is estimated that if the Government were to remove stamp duty for retirees buying a smaller property it could have significant short-term gains and release approximately 111,000 family homes into the market.
Lack of Suitable Housing
Even despite the financial barriers there are other hurdles standing in the way of a comfortable retirement such as the shortage of suitable housing. Not only are retirement properties better suited for one or two person households but they often have adaptations beneficial to older people which are not found in regular housing. For example, all Churchill properties are fitted with a 24-hour emergency Careline system as well as CCTV and sensors to ensure safety and security of residents. Many other types of adaptations can be made for ease or health which make retirement properties far better suited to retirement living than regular housing.
However, despite the advantages for both residents and the wider community, the rate at which new retirement properties are being developed is far less than the rate at which the retired population is growing. As supported by the ILC report, the current level of specialist retirement and extra care homes in England can only accommodate 5% of over 65s and, if current trends continue, by 2030 there could be a housing gap of around 160,000.
House builders in the sector, such as Churchill Retirement Living, are currently subject to planning policies which mean that they have to make an affordable housing contribution for every site they develop, but McCarthy argues that this legislation only benefits first-time buyers and does not take into consideration the need for specialised retirement housing. He believes that retirement properties should be categorised under a similar bracket as affordable housing or care homes because of the positive knock-on effect it would have on the market and the community as a whole.
A Better Quality of Life
McCarthy has been in the retirement property industry for over 15 years and has found that the biggest advantage of retirement developments is that they enable a better quality of life. In retirement, people’s lifestyles change and therefore what they need from their home also changes. For example, many older people enjoy travelling abroad, or may spend time away visiting friends and family; a retirement village offers added peace of mind that their property will be safe and sound while they are away and if something were to happen there is usually onsite maintenance and security services to deal with it right away.
Retirement is a time for indulging passions, taking up new hobbies and spending more time with friends and retirement developments offer the best environment to do this. With ready-made communities, full social calendars and the opportunity to get involved in a range of activities it’s understandable why increasingly more people are choosing to move into a retirement property sooner rather than later.
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