Older people face shortage of suitable housing, experts warn

OLDER people are facing a shortage of suitable housing for their retirement, putting pressure on the wider property market, according to experts.

A new report has warned that developers and house builders have failed to tap into the opportunities created by an ageing population and there is a lack of appropriate properties being constructed.

It comes after calls for older people wishing to downsize to be given government help in a bid to free up under-occupied homes and ease pressure on the housing market, particularly for younger families looking to take a second step on the property ladder.

But the new research by Savills suggests it is not as attractive for elderly people in Scotland to sell up their larger homes as it is for their counterparts south of the Border.

Lower property prices mean they cannot release as much cash by selling so have less to invest in a new smaller home and there are not enough retirement properties on the market.

Examples from elsewhere in the world reveal an untapped opportunity to cater for this growing market, the estate agents said.

Carole Mackie, head of Savills Retirement Living business in Scotland, said: “A model that works in say London, Bath or Bristol can not simply be replicated in Edinburgh or Glasgow.

“The challenge for developers operating in the retirement sector in Scotland will be providing desirable properties at attainable prices.

“A two-tier approach is required which will cater both for downsizers operating at the top end of the market, but also for more modest retirement housing.

“So, although there are challenges for developers in terms of value, the demographics indicate a huge untapped opportunity for the right product for the right buyer.”

The number of over-65s is expected to almost treble in the next 20 years.

The research points to a number of challenges facing this market, including relatively high land prices in Scotland compared to other parts of the UK, and an inconsistent approach to planning across Scottish local authorities.

It follows a report from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) last year which called for government help to be available to older people looking to downsize.

RICS said that around one-third of people aged 55 or over talked about downsizing, but only seven per cent get around to doing it. Government support could include help with moving costs or tax breaks, the institute said.

According to Savills Retirement Living Team, a more collaborative and creative approach involving landowners, planners and developers is now required to cater for this important and growing target group of home owners.

Savills research forecasts the number of people aged over 65 is set to increase from 550,000 to 1.4 million by 2037, an increase of at least 100,000 every five years. This unprecedented level of growth would be spread geographically and have important implications for housing across Scotland.

The average house in Scotland was worth £166,624, in the year to March 2016, compared to £250,000 across the UK as a whole.

Savills Planning specialist Natalie Antonelli said: “The demand for housing land has never been greater, and the planning system is key to unlocking the potential for delivery.”

She said the Scottish Government explicitly required local authorities to meet the housing needs of older people.

“Despite this, there is no definitive and specific planning policy to deliver retirement housing,” she said.

As a result there was an inconsistent approach to local planning authorities’ interpretation and application of planning policy.

Henry Lumby, head of UK Retirement Living for Savills, said lessons on the delivery of substantial levels of retirement housing could be learnt from Australia, New Zealand and America.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We recognise the need to ensure we have appropriate housing for a growing population and we want to help older people make decisions about their housing. That is why we are reviewing Age, Home and Community, the national housing strategy for older people and are working closely with a number of stakeholders including Age Scotland to take forward a housing options approach for older people.

“We remain committed to increasing the supply of new homes and enabling people to live independently in their own homes wherever possible.”

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