UK failing to plan enough homes for rapidly ageing population

Jennifer Nye

The UK is failing to plan to enough homes for its rapidly ageing population, new research has revealed.

National planning and development consultancy Lichfields found that only 16 out of 149 Local Plans had identified a specific requirement for older people’s housing. Out of these, only six had identified a specific requirement for older people’s housing.

Lichfields’ senior planner Jennifer Nye said: “The UK’s elderly population is growing and a clear plan is needed to ensure the housing needs of this demographic are adequately met. But national and local planning policy is not currently doing this. We need to establish a system which requires all local planning authorities to objectively assess the housing needs of its older population.

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“This should recognise the roles of different types of accommodation which are required and ensure that policy is fit to enable delivery.”

Lichfields said existing classifications for different types of housing for older people were creating uncertainty and confusion.

The consultancy found that, though lacking effective policy measures, councils were stepping up efforts to monitor older people’s housing delivery.

Scotland, where 80% of local authorities monitoring the supply of elderly accommodation, was leading in the area, Lichfields said.

Lichfields called for a national strategy outlining how the housing needs of older people will be met.

Jennifer added: “In line with the wider global trend, the UK population profile is ageing dramatically and the planning system will play a crucial role in facilitating the delivery of the homes and facilities required to meet the needs of this growing demographic.

“But falling to provide sufficient new homes for this group could have wider impacts on public services, especially social and health care, whilst also impacting on the ability of the younger generations to gain a foot-hold on the property ladder.”

Tags : LegislationPlanningResearch

The author Lee Peart


  1. From multiple sources we keep hearing of the rapid growth in our elderly population and the supposed need for more carehome beds. However I think every survey over the past 3 years has shown occupancy across the country to be below 90% and in talking to many operators and others in the sector over the past months, there has been significant reduction in demand for beds with much lower occupancy certainly in Q1 2018 than in previous years.
    What is causing that is unclear as it seems to be affecting both privately and publicly funded residents.
    Is this part of a longer term trend, partly driven by funding issues whereby elderly people will stay in their own homes for much much longer?

  2. and the housing that is built is discriminatory to profiling wheelchair users because their rooms are just too small, BS Part M4 (3) needs to be more prescriptive re minimum room sizing and need common sensing to allow for all types of modern wheelchair. The DFG system needs to be redesigned to allow for more significant changes to existing buildings to allow for medical need stuff as well as pure access. The space standards need to be also rewritten for same reasons. We have extra care units being built that if a couple, one of which a profiling wheelchair user wanted to move into would have to totally redesign the whole unit, which ain’t going to happen, they have non accessible kitchens, too small wet-rooms, inaccessible sinks , too narrow rooms, not enough hygiene facilities etc etc

  3. I completely agree with you Geoff. The whole demographic time bomb we keep reading about is completely out of step with crashing occupancy levels and multiple care home closures (two more announced in my area only this week). Yes, older people are clearly choosing/having to stay in their own homes for much longer; but then they and those close to them have been completely bombarded with negative headlines and lots of spin form our very own Government about how dreadful care homes are and how it is’ their right’ to stay in their own home (regardless of the terrible impact this might have on their physical and mental well-being), so no wonder care homes have empty rooms. Its perfect for the Government. The (problem) is nicely hidden behind a front door and reliant of the availability and good will of family, friends and neighbours. Therefore, lots of money saved.. Its going to get a whole lot worse.

  4. Care home closures are being driven largely by financial necessity, and not a lack of occupancy. Basically, publicly funded residents do not, in many cases, cover the cost of their care provision. The local authorities are simply,and for very good reason as a result of their own funding, not paying enough. Social Care is dramatically underfunded, and the demographic issue is there as well, it is a ‘ticking bomb’. In terms of occupancy, what has to be borne in mind, is that there will always be some level of vacancy, at an industry level. This is to handle the process involved in turnover of residents. Unfortunately, the average stay in a nursing home is decreasing as people are now often only sent there at the very latest stage in their lives, due to cost. The homes now very largely provide palliative care.There is also the issue that there can often be delays in agreeing care plans and funding with stakeholders, and this can give rise to vacancies temporarily. To make the comparison with employment levels, due to the ‘friction’ of resident turnover, at an industry level, we are indeed effectively at ‘full employment’ or ‘full occupancy’, in this case. The irony Is though that Care Home funding is in some cases, even at full occupancy, not sufficient to cover costs. Some homes are more fortunate, and enjoy a level of cross subsidisation from the private payers, or may have a more generous local authority. One of the biggest issues though is the parlous situation in relation to nurse supply. It is a chronic problem. Once a Care home has to go outside their own pool of nurses, for temporary staff, on any type of sustained basis, that often spells a financial ‘death knell’. Care home average profitability per unit, where we are talking about businesses turning over hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds; comes out, last that I heard, at about £11,000…incredible! In terms of the type of accommodation, there is indeed a trend towards purpose built facilities, and that also tend to be the model elsewhere as well.

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