Earlier this week, the latest census data showed just how rapidly our society is ageing. The  65+ population in England has grown by almost 1.7 million since the 2011 census and stood at 10.4 million as of mid-2021. By 2037, it’s forecast that one in four of us will be over 65.

This is a major demographic shift and one for which we are not currently prepared. Today, is the launch of the latest  "Unlocking Potential for Seniors Housing" report - which we have prepared jointly with Knight Frank.

The research combines demographic data with an analysis of local plan policies in England, to produce an "opportunity score" identifying the areas which provide the best opportunities for Seniors Housing Developments.

As this is the third time that we have run the research, it also tracks the progress being made in sector specific planning policies since  2017. Whilst the results demonstrate that progress is being made, it is happening far too slowly.

The report finds:

  • Over a third (36%) of local authorities don’t currently have clear policies in place to support housing for seniors
  • The percentage of local authorities who’ve adopted seniors’ housing planning policies has improved, increasing from 9.7% in 2017 to 23.3%
  • The percentage of local authorities with no clear policies to address seniors housing has also reduced – from 62% to 36.2%

While this shows an improvement over the past five years, there’s still a lot more that needs to be done. Currently it still stands that less than a quarter of local authorities have clear senior housing policies in place. This means we won’t be prepared to provide enough suitable housing for our ageing population in the coming years.

It is not, however, all doom and gloom. Some local authorities have made real leaps forward since we last published this report in 2020. My own home authority of Tunbridge Wells has jumped from 171st in the overall private opportunity area rankings to an impressive 6th place. This comes as a result of an increased level of investment in the area, a supportive local council, and a significantly improved planning policy position in the emerging local plan (which is currently at examination). 

The number of London boroughs appearing in the top fifteen in the private opportunity area rankings has also tripled, from two in 2020, to six in 2022.

The case for more specialist Seniors Housing is undeniable. It has been shown, over and over again, that not only do these developments improve the quality of life for their residents (delaying the point at which people need to move into care homes, and reducing overall pressure on the NHS), but they release much needed under-occupied family housing stock onto the market as residents downsize. 

The Seniors Housing Sector is also highly innovative. I have spoken to a number of Developers of Integrated Retirement Communities (IRCs), who are bringing forward developments that are way ahead of the curve when it comes to sustainability and community engagement. Plans are in place for schemes that are carbon neutral, wholly or largely powered by renewable energy and which deliver almost double the government's 10% biodiversity net gain targets.

We are all getting older*, it is inevitable, so why not plan for it? Let's give it a go.

If we can put in place enough provision to ensure that every older person has a real choice of appropriate housing available to them, regardless of their care needs and levels of wealth, the benefits could be huge.  

Not only could we make a real impact on the housing crisis, and reduce pressure on the NHS, but it could be a lot of fun. 


* I, for one, am approaching forty far more rapidly than I care to admit.