Councils unprepared to provide suitable housing for ageing population: Knight Frank

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More than a third of councils across England are still unprepared to provide suitable housing for the ageing population, according to research from Knight Frank and Irwin Mitchell.

Knight Frank and Irwin Mitchell explain that the shortcoming in the level of planning for senior housing is “particularly worrying” given the UK’s ageing population with a forecast showing that one in four people will be over 65 by 2037.

The new survey follows research carried out in 2017 and 2020, which ranked local authorities between ‘A’ and ‘D’ according to their approach to senior housing provision within their local plans.

The latest figures show that out of 326 local authorities in England 76 were graded A, 96 were graded B, 36 were graded C and 118 were graded D.

Since 2017, the percentage of grade A local authorities in England that have adopted specific planning policies and site allocations addressing senior housing has improved significantly, increasing from 9.7% in 2017 to 23.3%.

The percentage of local authorities graded a D has also reduced from 62% to 36.2%.

Research shows that the sector is also getting much-needed support from central government, with a recently announced cross-departmental task force on housing for older people championing the need for sector-specific legislation, clarity in the planning system, and funding for affordable housing.

The National Planning Policy Framework and National Planning Policy Guidance also acknowledge the importance of senior housing.

While there are signs of improvement, Knight frank and Irwin Mitchell say the rate of change is not fast enough.

There are still less than a quarter of local authorities with an A grade who have both clear policies in place and site allocations, and the number of councils not adequately planning for an ageing population remains significant.

The figures also reveal several regressions in the data, with 13 local authorities having moved backwards since the survey was last conducted in 2020.

Of these, six authorities, including Basildon, Castlepoint, Slough, Welwyn, Hatfield, Wealden, and Horsham, have regressed because of issues with their local plans.

Knight Frank and Irwin Mitchell also encouraged councils to recognise the importance of senior housing as a key component of the housing market and a housing product that is worth supporting.

Knight Frank head of seniors housing consultancy Lauren Harwood adds: “This year’s survey is released against a backdrop of an increasingly difficult development environment; with nutrient and water neutrality issues, insufficient local government resources and local plan failures all making it harder than ever to bring forward new seniors housing schemes. Rising operational and build costs, as well as an increasingly competitive land market have added another layer of complexity.”

“As a result, there is currently still a huge supply and demand imbalance of senior housing in England, which is widening amidst a growing and ageing population. It is vital therefore that we increase the provision of seniors housing. 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.”

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