Press Releases

21 Oct 2020

Government must make purpose-built housing for older people a national priority

  • Current volume of housing-with-care is critically low, while ageing population in England and Wales is set to grow by 2.1 million by 2029

  • England and Wales must build 45,000 new homes-with-care each year to meet international benchmarks

  • Government should establish a Housing for Older People Taskforce

21 October 2020, London: The British Property Federation (BPF), in partnership with Cushman & Wakefield, today launches a new report that identifies an acute lack of housing-with-care – purpose-built, self-contained homes that have the capacity to provide care, yet allow residents to continue living independently – for older people in the UK.

The report Housing and care for older people: Defining the Sector also reveals the scale of new housing-with-care units required across England and Wales to keep up with future demand.

There are only 74,000 housing-with-care units in the UK today. This small number of units is only 0.9 per cent of older households, which is significantly lower than in the US, Australia and New Zealand.

The UK falls considerably short of the international benchmark of approximately 6 percent established by this report. 

Table 1: Penetration rates of housing-with-care by country

The penetration rate is the percentage of older households that live in housing-with-care – it is a share of older households that have ‘converted’ from general housing to housing-with-care.

While the context for the report is set amongst UK-wide demographics and unit numbers –  with different planning systems, Scotland and Northern Ireland are out of scope for this report’s analysis of the scale of new housing-with-care stock required to keep up with future demand.

From 2015-2019, England and Wales were only delivering 3,500 housing-with-care units each year, with a total volume of 71,000 units today.

There are currently around 11 million people aged over 65 years in England and Wales, and by 2029 there will be 2.1 million more, highlighting the growing disparity between supply and demand. 

To achieve the same provision of housing-with-care as the US, Australia and New Zealand by 2029, 45,000 new housing-with-care units must be built each year across England and Wales.

Table 2: Penetration rate scenarios for housing-with-care future deliveries 


There are other housing models that cater for older people and should be delivered as part of a holistic national strategy – including care homes and housing-with-support.

While the lack of supply of housing-with-care is acute – with, for example, only 363,000 housing-with-support units in England and Wales, other housing models that cater for older people are also not growing in line with an ageing population.

An older person who wants to move into specialist housing, should – much like in the wider housing sector – have a wide range of options available to them in their local area. However, that is currently not the case in many locations across England and Wales.

Currently, housing-with-care is only 16 percent of total stock of housing for older people, and around eight percent of local authorities in England and Wales do not have a single housing-with-care scheme, emphasising the urgent need for fit-for-purpose housing for older people.

The report sets out three recommendations to the Government to support an increase in supply of housing-with-care:

  1. The UK Government should establish a Housing for Older People Taskforce.

    The taskforce should include a wide range of stakeholders from the public, private and voluntary sectors.

    Central to the taskforce’s remit will be to recognise and promote the benefits of purpose-built housing for older people, with a particular focus on housing-with-care, and to provide local authorities with the resource to help plan for such accommodation with local need in mind.

  2. The UK Government should develop and publish a national strategy for Housing for Older People.

    As per the recommendations of the 2017 CLG Select Committee inquiry into Housing for Older People, the Government should establish a strategy that reinforces the national significance of this issue.

    The national strategy should ensure all forms of appropriate housing is provided for older people as a key part of national and local housing targets.

  3. Priority should be given to projects that exhibit a commitment to achieving the UK’s zero carbon ambitions.

    The built environment and the wider economy will in the coming years need to address the challenge of global climate change and subsequently decarbonise its activities.

    The government should consider implementing measures to fast track planning projects that exhibit high sustainability standards while addressing the pressing demand for housing for an ageing population.

Melanie Leech, Chief Executive, British Property Federation comments:

“Government must make purpose-built housing for older people a national priority. It is critical that the country’s housing sector delivers new, purpose-built homes to serve older people’s aspirations, many of whom will continue to live productive and independent lives, but may wish to have certainty that their future care needs will be provided for.

“The current lack of housing-with-care is acute. Our ageing population needs more fit-for-purpose, affordable, high-quality housing and this will have positive implications for issues as far reaching as social care, isolation and integration, generational inequality, and employment and skills.”

Caryn Donahue, Head of Retirement Living, Cushman & Wakefield adds:

“The UK’s elderly population is very underserved with minimal housing options and a need for aspirational fit-for-purpose housing that allows older people to live independently and age in place. The supply and demand disparity that exists across the country is urgent and the problem is only growing as the baby boomers enter later life.”

“Through our partnership with the BPF, we created this report as a call to action for Government to take an active role in supporting the real estate industry and creating a strategy to ensure that the ageing population has high-quality housing options available to them.”

Sadie Malim, Head of Special Projects, Moorfield Group adds:

“As investors in the senior living space, we have seen the significant benefits that purpose-built retirement communities bring to the residents and the community. Provision of specialist housing with care has been shown to reduce bed use in local hospitals, address issues associated with loneliness, as well as improve the quality of life, health and wellbeing of a growing segment of the population.

“We have an impending crisis in this country as the baby boomers age and it is imperative that the Government focuses on the housing options for the ageing demographic as well as first time buyers. We welcome this report as a step towards pro-active engagement with Government to work with the real estate industry to help address this crisis in a sustainable way.”

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