With the retirement housing sector continuing to struggle to find ways to meet the massive untapped potential of specialist housing, older consumers themselves will get their chance to put forward solutions at the forthcoming Laing & Buisson Retirement Housing Conference, being held in London on Wednesday 27 September.
Tony Watts OBE, who as well as playing leading roles in EngAgeNet (The English Age Network) and the Age Action Alliance, is one of the country’s Older People’s Housing Champions and sits on a number of other housing industry groups, and he’ll be a panellist and speaker at the event, alongside developers, housing associations, architects and planners.
“All of the research to date points to the fact that a large number of people in or heading towards retirement would really welcome the opportunity to move into housing built to meet their needs in later life,” he says. “But just 7,000 units a year are currently being built. That points to a major disconnect between what older people want and what is currently available.
“We also know that large number of schemes never get off the ground because they are rejected at planning.
“One of the main reasons for this is the fact that older consumers themselves are not sufficiently involved in the decision making around the sort of product being developed and the location. This will be my main message at the conference: if you want to sell or rent more of your houses to us, talk to us first.”
As well as working in a representative role for older people, Tony has also spent a large part of his career as a journalist writing about commercial as well as residential property.
“Too often, there is an assumption that developers and real estate professionals can just rock up to a town or city and plonk their standard template product on whatever piece of land they can acquire. There is rarely any effort to consult with older people themselves locally what they might want – such as smaller developments close to their existing support networks.
“There are also concerns about the relative cost of some of these homes, ongoing fees and how well their value will be maintained in the years ahead.”
All too often, he says, planning applications hits the buffers because councillors and local residents believe the priority for new homes should be for first time buyers and families – despite the fact that families will be able to move into the houses older people vacate.
“Society needs these homes to be built if more of us can hope to live independently for longer in our own homes and reduce costs within the care and health systems. But for that to happen there needs to be more choice, more consultation and more collaboration between developers and local communities and councils.”
Places at the conference are still available, and you can find out more at: