Despite London being seen as a ‘young person’s city’, over the next 10 years the fastest growing age group in the capital is expected to be people aged over 65, projected to increase by 25 per cent. Meeting the housing needs of this group presents some particular challenges. How can we ensure that the city overcomes them and provides good, affordable, and appropriate homes for older Londoners?
The debate on housing in London tends to focus on overall numbers and targets, tenure and affordability, as well as appropriate densities and locations for development. All of these overarching themes are important when thinking about how we can best house our older residents, but there are also some unique factors which demand special attention.
Some of this cohort will require specialist housing in order to meet health and care needs. The London Plan forecasts that we will need 4,000 additional units every year for the next 10 years to meet demand. However, at present we are only supplying around 600 every year.
There is a desire for optimisation of space in the housing market – for people to occupy the size of home that they need. Some wealthier, older Londoners will have larger houses than may be necessary, but will be reluctant or unable to move due to tax implications. Less well-off Londoners may also be under-occupying properties, but are understandably reluctant to move from their neighbourhoods and networks of social support.
And all the while, policymakers are focussing on measures to keep older people healthier for longer, ideally in their own homes, in order to alleviate some of the pressures on the health and social care systems. And the current coronavirus crisis brings the needs of older Londoners, whatever their domestic situation, into sharp focus.
In order to untangle some of these threads, and develop policy and practical solutions that enable greater independence and fulfilment for older Londoners, this project will be exploring the following questions:
- Who are London’s older residents? What are their financial circumstances, where do they live and what are their aspirations and concerns for housing?
- What is the current state of housing provision? Does it meet the needs and aspirations of London’s older residents, including affordability?
- How are housing needs assessed and planned for? What are the trends in developments of specialist provision, and where do the challenges and opportunities lie?
- Are there new, or innovative models of housing that can meet older Londoner’s needs? What kinds of community, or at-home support can facilitate healthy, independent and happy lives for older Londoners? Are there any lessons to be drawn from the coronavirus crisis, or implications for the care and housing systems as the country recovers?
The final project will be launched in Winter 2020/21. If you are interested in contributing to this project, please contact Joe Wills.