Local authority leaders have said they should be granted the powers necessary to undertake a ‘desperately-needed’ residential revolution in older people’s housing.
Responding to an APPG report on older people’s housing in rural areas, the Local Government Association (LGA) said councils needed the ‘right tools’ to ensure elderly people living outside of urban areas have suitable accommodation.
According to the APPG for Housing and Care for Older People, half of rural households are expected to be headed by someone who is over 65 within the next two decades.
This places a lot of pressure on local authorities due to the expense of providing care to those who are not concentrated in a single, urban setting.
‘The central dilemma we encountered concerned the problem and cost of delivering care services to older people in more remote locations,’ the APPG report noted.
‘Care agencies report difficulties in recruitment and local authorities face extra costs for transport and unproductive time in providing domiciliary support to rural communities.’
The APPG report recommended that more accommodation suitable for an ageing population should be built in market towns.
However, they stressed this would not be enough and said it would be preferable for this accommodation to be available in villages.
‘Small scale provision in large numbers of villages would often be the preferred solution for those who otherwise simply refuse to take the step of moving from unsuitable properties,’ the report said.
This solution would enable family and friends to continue to support their elderly relatives, which would in turn bring savings for the state.
Local SME housebuilders are able to provide some of this accommodation, but major developers are reluctant to build on small, rural sites for older people, the APPG concluded.
This would mean councils and other not-for-profit builders would have to step in to fill this market gap.
‘Until measures are in place that mean private sector players can meet local need, we conclude that accommodation for older people will usually require the involvement of housing associations, local councils, or other not–for–profit bodies like Community Land Trusts or almshouses,’ the report concluded.
‘Our overarching conclusion is that, despite Government commitments to increase housebuilding nationally, special measures will be needed to secure homes suitable for older people-– increasingly representing the majority of residents - living in rural communities.’
Commenting on the report and noting the ‘clear link’ between housing, health and social care, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: ‘Councils want to see a desperately-needed residential revolution in older people’s housing.
‘However, they need to have the tools to build these appropriate homes, including the freedom to borrow to build new homes across the country, fully resourced planning teams so approvals can be given to appropriate homes as quickly as possible, and allowed to retain 100% of receipts from Right to Buy sales so that homes sold can be replaced.’
‘If councils are given the right tools, we could trigger that residential revolution and deliver the homes our older residents need, but with an ageing population, the clock is ticking,’ she continued.
‘As a country, we owe it to our older people to tackle this problem urgently - the time to act is now.’