Housing for an Ageing Population at The Building Centre

Last night HUB visited The Building Centre for a Museum of Architecture Event on housing for older people.

The event brought together a broad-based panel, ranging from author and researcher Deane Simpson to policy maker and civil servant Fran Balaam, and hosted by Ben Page of Ipsos MORI. The group presented on housing for older people, introducing a series of design responses, policy perspectives and social research findings for discussion.

As ever, the key issues raised related to affordability and sustainability. Demand for tailored accommodation is rising, as baby boomers reach retirement age. However, the heavy segmentation of the market for retirement accommodation as well as poor opportunities for private financing, have made much of the existing stock unaffordable. Moreover, in London where housing prices are inflated many people cannot find opportunities to downsize locally in order to release capital. Part of the solution to our current housing crisis must therefore focus on releasing finance and tax-relief to those downsizing and to developers, to ensure that family homes are put to best use.

Sustainable solutions to housing provision for this market focused in particular on unit density. Increasing density allows developers to reach a higher level of affordability, whilst locating closer to existing services and support networks. This does, however, present a series of challenges. Indeed, there were some poignant and emotive responses from the audience, many of whom were reluctant to be forced into a different way of living. There were calls from across the panel for using innovative technological approaches to resolving practical, social and cultural issues related to density. These were caveated with warnings relating to personal privacy, cultural sensitivity and accessibility.

Other points raised included the location of Older Age enclaves – should they be City Centre located? The importance of creating enclaves that encourage interaction of all age groups was identified as a key driver, along with the benefits of housing for older people that encourage meeting points and social interaction with wide corridors and shared facilities.

HUB sees great opportunity in the market for conversions and adaptation. This option allows families to plan ahead to the future, investing smaller amounts of capital in creating comfortable and efficient homes. However, this is not always an ideal strategy. This is particularly the case in larger and less energy efficient homes, where the cost of maintaining a property may be prohibitive over time. We do, however, see great opportunity for forward thinking clients to plan well ahead in preparing for the challenges and great benefits of getting older. Preparing one’s home for conversion or adaptation is one solution we intend to explore over the coming months.

HUB finished the evening with a quick drink across the road at the wonderful College Arms pub. A cosy venue, and a great opportunity to evaluate our findings.