High on ambition, but low on delivery for the elderly

Blog posted

13th February 2017

Whilst welcoming the ambition of the Housing White Paper to provide people with the security they need to plan for the future through the provision of more housing, and in particular housing for the elderly, we are disappointed that much needed assistance and encouragement to downsize through stamp duty relief and other incentives, which were presaged in the press, have not materialised.

The stated ambition of the White Paper to improve the quality of life for the elderly and at the same time free up their homes by downsizing is laudable. The recognition that the elderly have an emotional attachment to the family home which means that where they are moving to needs to be attractive and suitable for their needs over a 20 to 30 year period, while remaining close to family and friends, is a welcome recognition of the need for specialist retirement communities – such as retirement villages.

However, the omission of analysis of the impact of our ageing population ignores a fundamental reason why the market needs to be fixed. And while the White Paper referenced some of the changes necessary, a significant amount of further work needs to be done. Whilst the government’s recognition of the need and the value of the provision of specialist housing for the elderly is most welcome, the speed at which government intends to take action sits uncomfortably alongside their stated aim of increasing the housing supply quickly. We would have liked to have seen more specific recommendations within the White Paper such as action taken to provide:

  • Stamp duty reductions for downsizing recognising the stamp duty “windfall” when an entire housing chain moves
  • Confirmation of the C2 use class for retirement housing with care to save “re-inventing the wheel” at every planning application
  • Establish a national exemption policy that allows the building of C2 extra care and retirement villages with care on the boundaries of existing settlements subject to proving need
  • CIL relief for C2 extra care developments and retirement villages with care
  • Confirmation that legislation to introduce a code of practice for event fees following imminent publication of the Law Commission recommendations will be expedited

The proposals to encourage a timely connection to utilities and to tackle unnecessary delays arising from planning conditions are much needed and especially welcome, as are the references to providing additional resources to help planning departments – all factors which cause considerable delay to new development.

Equally welcome is the new statutory duty through the Neighbourhood Planning Bill on the Secretary of State to produce guidance on Local Planning Authorities on how their Development Documents should meet the needs of older and disabled people.

The headline grabbing proposal on planning permissions that developers must “use it or lose it” does not address that much of the delay to progressing permissioned development is out of the control of the developer. This measure is likely to be onerous on the sector, potentially leading to fewer homes being built. As Adam Challis, Head of Residential Research at JLL is quoted as saying: “Increased risk for holding land will only mean that housebuilders hold a store of sites pre-permissioned, rather than pushing developments through more quickly. It is likely this measure will have the opposite effect of its intent by increasing the risk of holding over-ready sites for development.”

The emphasis placed on specialist housing for the elderly is strongly welcomed as is the recognition that this provision is an important contributor to solving the housing crisis. It is unfortunate that these ambitions will result in yet more consultation – rather than action now.