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OPINION: McCarthy Stone chief calls for greater retirement housing supply

John Tonkiss

Writing exclusively for CHP, McCarthy Stone CEO, John Tonkiss, highlights the need for more retirement housing.

It is undeniable that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted older people more than any other age group in the UK, with many shielding at home and being isolated from their families and loved ones.

With over-65s accounting for more than 90% of COVID-19 related deaths, the pandemic has shone a harsh spotlight on how we support them and, as we reflect on the last year, it is essential that as a society we learn from this period and put in place measures to better support them in the future.

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Central to this is housing – specifically the provision of more suitable, affordable and flexible housing to support our increasingly ageing population.  Across the UK, our retirement living communities, which have seen infection levels half that of over 65s generally, have proved that they can keep older people healthier and happier than those living in other environments. Findings from the Homes for Later Living Group have found that homeowners in specialist retirement housing feel as good as someone 10 years younger.

Yet, despite the benefits, the supply of suitable homes for older people is falling drastically short of demand – with the latest stats showing that the UK only builds  around 8,000 new retirement properties a year against demand for around 30,000.

We believe that the Government needs to urgently look at new ways to address this significant supply crisis and help create an industry that provides more older people with the choice, access and opportunity to live in suitable, affordable and flexible housing. The goal is to keep older people supported and independent for longer.

To do this, we have devised a robust three-point plan for how we believe the Government can truly drive the retirement sector forward. First, the Government needs to adopt a bold and ambitious commitment to increasing the supply of new retirement properties to 30,000 a year. Second, and closely aligned with the first, we believe that Homes England should make 10% of their new housing designed specifically for older people and expand its affordable shared ownership offering for older people. Third, we are calling for the Chancellor to provide a permanent stamp duty holiday for those moving into retirement communities.

To catalyse these changes, we’re calling on the Government to establish a retirement living taskforce to provide dedicated time and resource to solve the wider housing and social care crisis which has been so starkly highlighted in the pandemic. The UK needs a sensible debate about the measures needed to create a sustainable, affordable and viable model for retirement and extra care housing in the UK, that works for consumers and operators while freeing up existing housing stock to support first time buyers and growing families.

This would be a really positive post-pandemic legacy for the government, and we’re committed to working with them to make 2021 the year it happens.

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The author Lee Peart

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