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Beyond Lockdown: Housing for Older Londoners

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London is often seen as a young person’s city. But the over 65s are the fastest growing age group and numbers are projected to increase by 25% over the next 10 years. Meeting the needs of this diverse group presents both opportunities and challenges for the housing market. These are brought into sharp relief in the current crisis.

Pre-Covid-19
In London and across the UK, there is a shortage of supply of age-friendly housing – housing that is high quality, affordable, and appropriate. Getting housing provision right is critical both now and over the coming decades.

The current London Plan includes targets for specialist housing for older Londoners. It is estimated that over the period 2015 – 2025, older Londoners may require 3,600 – 4,200 new specialist units per annum. This would involve Boroughs working proactively with specialist housing providers. Also needed is the provision of ‘intermediate’ housing. As it stands, this target is far from being met.

It’s clear that how we do things has to change. We have an ageing population. The UK government’s Industrial Strategy has included the ‘Ageing Society’ as one of four grand challenges. Ageing populations will create new demand for new care technologies, new housing models, and innovative financial products for retirement. The ambition is to support people to live independently for as long as possible with a focus on health and wellbeing.

And there are real opportunities. A report published earlier this year by Connected Places Catapult, Homes for Healthy Ageing, indicates that healthcare related property is attracting about $200 billion from global investors. In addition, about 1.8 million over 55’s are actively looking to downsize. Downsizing would release significant equity and have considerable economic and social benefits.

There is also a fast-growing market for smart home products to support people to live well and independently for longer. According to the Connected Places report, the UK is one of the largest and fastest growing markets. At the European level, the market for smart home products is forecast to grow from $8.81 billion in 2018 to $13.85 billion by 2024.

The current situation
The impact of the crisis on many older Londoners is acute with many required to shield for the foreseeable future. While significant work is underway by government, by supermarkets and service providers, by the Third Sector and newly formed community groups, to meet essential needs now and in the coming months, the potential ‘offer’ will need to be ramped up.

Not only do we expect to see a sharp rise in social isolation and loneliness for many, but there will be key challenges to ensuring that health and care needs are met, including the management of existing health conditions. Here we may well see a sharp rise in the use of telehealth and telemedicine which we are already seeing with younger populations, as well as a gearing up of smart home technologies to support health and care needs.

Beyond lockdown
It’s too early to tell what the impact of the current crisis on the housing market will be. At present, commentators are predicting relatively short-term price falls of between 5-15% followed by a recovery in 2021. For London, this suggests that at least the issue of affordability for many older Londoners will remain.

There is some exciting work taking place to understand current and shape future trends.

The Centre for London, a thinktank dedicated to developing new solutions for London’s critical challenges and advocating for a fair and prosperous global city, have initiated a programme of work focusing on housing for older Londoners. This will include getting clarity on who London’s older residents are and their circumstances, understanding current housing provision, how housing needs are currently being assessed and planned for, and what new or innovative models of housing might meet older Londoner’s needs. It will be necessary to learn the lessons from the current crisis and consider the implications for the care and housing systems as the UK recovers.

There are no simple solutions. But there are real opportunities, to improve the lives of older Londoners now and in coming decades, and to support London’s economic and social recovery post Covid-19.

References
Centre for London. (2020). Project: Housing for older Londoners. Available at: https://www.centreforlondon.org/project/housing-older-londoners/ [Accessed 20 April 2020] Connected Places Catapult. (2020). Homes for Healthy Ageing: Challenges, opportunities and the way forward. Available at: https://cp.catapult.org.uk/2020/02/26/homes-for-healthy-ageing-report-launched-by-cpcs-housing-innovation-programme/ [Accessed 23 April 2020] HM Government. (2017). Industrial Strategy: Building a Britain fit for the future. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/industrial-strategy-building-a-britain-fit-for-the-future [Accessed 23 April 2020] Mayor of London. (2016). The London Plan: The spatial development strategy for London. Available at: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/planning/london-plan/current-london-plan/london-plan-2016-pdf [Accessed 20 April 2020]