Widening the Spectrum of retirement housing

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Widening the Spectrum of retirement housing

In January 2013, Gateway Housing Association launched its ground-breaking report, Widening the Spectrum of Retirement Housing in Tower Hamlets.

Special guest speakers included Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lord Richard Best, Chair of the All Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People and David Lunts, Executive Director of Housing and Land, Greater London Authority.

The report was the result of research carried out by Altair Ltd on behalf of the Tower Hamlets Older People’s Housing Commission. The Commission, chaired by Don Wood ex-CEO of London and Quadrant Housing Group was set up to:

Consider the types of accommodation older people will want in years to come
Understand the demand for property ownership options, including Older People’s Shared Ownership (OPSO), within Tower Hamlets and the factors involved in making it a success.

The research identified the ‘Right to Buy’ generation as a significant group facing a precarious future. Unlike other parts of London, some 84% of older people in Tower Hamlets live in flats, maisonettes or bedsits, rather than houses or bungalows. Those who have exercised the ‘right to buy’ may now be struggling with their obligation to meet increasing maintenance costs and not having any viable option open to them that they can afford to purchase and maintain.

There appears to be a real interest from ex-Right to Buy leaseholders for buy-back packages which would enable them to move into shared ownership retirement housing and return under-occupied larger homes to the social housing stock which could help to ease overcrowding.

The report concluded that there is a market for affordable leasehold retirement housing. However to attract older people to move new provision would need to follow HAPPI principles and:

Be physically desirable, and economic to live in and maintain
Offer financial incentives to make moving more affordable
Provide packages of practical support to make the move easy.

As a local community based association Gateway believes it is important to innovate and test new ideas. There is a market for OPSO and the association will be taking forward what has been learnt from this research into the re-development of homes as part of the wider regeneration of an estate on the Isle of Dogs. It will deliver homes for OPSO integrated with a new dedicated older persons block with on-site support.

There is potentially a win: win for older people, local authorities and for communities.

Sheron Carter is CEO of Gateway HA, Jackie Gallagher is an Associate Director with Altair and author of the report.

Click here to view the full report.