If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that we’re not getting any younger. By 2024, one in five of Brits will be 65 or over according to the ONS.

As well as having huge implications for the £121 billion of social security spending going towards pensioners, this wrinkly eventuality also means needing to rethink how we deliver housing.

Investors are already waking up to this fact and so we are beginning to see the emergence of a dedicated Later Living sector, which promises to shake up our retirement living in much the same way as Build to Rent (BTR) has done to the wider rental market.

Whilst retirement homes have historically been more last resort than holiday resort, this nascent sector aims to offer an aspirational community solution to housing older people who are still young at heart but who recognise that their needs are starting to shift.

This means something different to different providers, which range from McCarthy & Stone’s varied, yet traditional village homes, to the likes of Legal and General with its urban-focused Guild Living brand and suburban community-focused Inspired Villages Group.

Over-65s currently own 6.5 million homes in England. If Later Living schemes resulted in even 5 percent of these re-entering the market, it would result in more available housing stock than every new development achieved in the past year, and free up homes for families and first-time buyers.

Proof of the Later Living concept can be found in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, all of which see over 5% of over-65s choose purpose-built senior housing. Only 0.5% of the same demographic do so in the UK, indicating scope for enormous growth.

In fact, a 137% uplift in investment for Later Living is predicted over the next five years according to global property consultants Knight Frank. This growth will likely be spread across all price points – just as we’ve seen in BTR – as well as a move away from being a predominantly leasehold model to include more rental options as well.

However, if the Later Living sector is to realise its true potential, then a number of issues need overcoming.

First, is the current perception of retirement housing. Right now, there are two extremes: hospital-style care homes for those hanging around the pearly gates or five-star luxury living accessible only to the super-rich. Given that almost £3 trillion of housing wealth stored up by the over 50s, there’s clearly a growing market for platinum pensioners. But any mass market for product will need to be inclusive.

Second, are our tax and planning regimes. Currently downsizers have to pay stamp duty on any new property they purchase, which is a massive financial disincentive. While many are likely to reap a significant windfall from decades of high house price inflation, the idea of stumping up tens of thousands of pounds to move somewhere smaller – even if more convenient and better suited to your living needs – is understandably unappealing.

Our new prime minister Boris Johnson has made positive noises about stamp duty reform in the past, however this week chancellor Sajid Javid has been flip-flopping around the issue. Let’s hope to see some follow through and some actual legislation to encourage downsizing.

One potential solution would be to announce a new planning use class, which differentiates Later Living housing from both care homes and traditional residential. Views differ on whether this may be needed, but it could help offer investors greater certainty.

Of course, the benefits of an established Later Living sector wouldn’t be enjoyed just by investors, first-time buyers or families but the elderly themselves, who would get modern, purpose-built accommodation designed to suit their needs and lifestyles.

This should be a welcome change to the wellbeing of retirees, particularly considering the forecast £1 billion NHS bill that will be caused solely by inappropriate housing for people over the age of 55 by 2041. This stat from the Royal Institute of British Architects should be a reminder of the real purpose of Later Living: better health for our elderly, and more time to enjoy with friends, family, and community.

 

If you would like to hear more about the emergence of Later Living in the UK from some of the top thought-leaders in the industry, listen to our recent PropCast where Andrew Teacher from Blackstock Consulting is joined by Richard Jackson, MD & co-founder at Apache Capital Partners, Rory O’Hagan, director at Assael Architecture and Eugene Marchese, director of innovation & design at Guild Living. You can listen on iTunes, Spotify or SoundCloud.