Housing Sector: Is It Ready for the Ageing Population?

Background
Further to our recent blog ‘Smith Institute – Report Review’, a report by the Universities of Dundee, Housing and Ageing: Linking Strategy to future delivery for Scotland, Wales and England 2030, found that the UK housing sector is still not ready for the ageing population and recommends that housing should play a dominant role in the provisions of services for older people. The report recommended investments in early intervention, new adaptable and affordable housing and consulting with older people.

One author of the report, Judith Sixsmith, professor of health-related research at the University of Dundee, said: “Getting the appropriate housing solutions in place is a key challenge for our ageing population. Ageing in the right place is so important if older people are to live well in their homes and communities.”

Older Person’s Shared Ownership (OPSO)
A report by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, recommended expanding the options for older social tenants including increasing the role shared ownership can play. The OPSO scheme is only available to the over 55’s and gives retired people lower living costs, than if they owned a home on the open market. By reducing these living costs it tries to ensure older people are able to afford the necessities such as heating.

This scheme works in the same way as standard Shared Ownership (SO), in which you buy an initial share that you can afford, helping you get into home ownership in manageable stages. However, the main difference with this scheme than the standard SO scheme is the maximum share you can ever own is 75%. Registered Provider (RP) will offer initial shares of between 25% – 75% of the full purchase price and subsidised rent is paid on the remaining share that the RP retains the equity in. However, if the maximum amount of 75% is acquired then no rent is payable on the remaining 25%. If you choose to sell the property, you simply sell your share for its value at the time.

To be eligible for the OPSO scheme you must:

  • Be aged over 55;
  • Have an annual household income of no more than £80,000 (or £90,000 in London);
  • Be unable to purchase a home suitable for your needs without assistance;
  • Be a first-time buyer, you used to own a home but can’t afford to buy one now or are an existing shared owner looking to move.
  • Not have any outstanding credit issues.

Extra Care
Some OPSO developments also offer sheltered Shared Ownership schemes, also known as Extra Care, which are designed to provide residents with the ability to live independently in self-contained, modern homes, but with access to care and support services tailored to their individual needs.

To be eligible for such a scheme you must have a minimum number of hours care requirement per week and a connection to the local area. Minimum care requirement will vary between developments.

Downsizing
These schemes are important as enabling older people to move house and potentially downsize can improve their well-being whilst also freeing up scarce family housing. Older people staying in the same home can leave them in unsuitable accommodation and can restrict their quality of life and in some cases can contribute to the decline in their mental or physical health. For example, some older people may no longer be able to drive, their partner may have passed away or their extended family moved away. These changes can mean they become lonely and isolated and can lead to them being unable to maintain a house.

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2012 found that 93% of over 55s in England live in ‘mainstream’ housing. The research also found that 85% of homes with three or more bedrooms are only released by older people due to death rather than a move to a smaller home.

Many older people deem the uprooting from potentially their long standing family home and their familiar surroundings too stressful and outweighs the benefits the schemes can offer. Therefore, the schemes should be tailored to reduce at least some of the obstacles to moving house that older people face.

In our experience RPs are gearing up for the ageing population and the sector is always diversifying to find solutions for their community needs. Should you wish to discuss further please do get in touch.

For more information please get in touch with Jennifer Hankinson on 01254 2222417 or Lyndsay Baxter on 01772 220384. Alternatively send any questions through to Forbes Solicitors via our online contact form.

Lyndsay Baxter

About Lyndsay Baxter

Lyndsay is a Trainee Solicitor in the Housing and Regeneration (Property) Department. She primarily assists with a wide variety of property work including site acquisitions, development agreements (including turn-key and golden brick agreements), property sales and purchases, s106 agreements (and variations), bulk securitisation/disposal/acquisition and construction elements such as easements, utility agreements (including s104, s185, s38, s278 and s102). Lyndsay also has assisted a number of clients by providing reviews of their lease portfolios and boundary responsibilities.
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