Retirement housing crisis: the UK's hotspots

Where in the UK has less than one suitable property per 1,000 retired homeowners?

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Retirement housing shortage

Over 2.5 million people over the age of 60 are ready to move out of the family home and into something more suitable, but there just aren't enough houses being built for this kind of buyer.

In total, there are just 720,000 retirement properties in the UK - which could house a mere 7% of the UK's elderly population. In some areas of the country, the shortage has reached a crisis.

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A study by Inspired Villages found the top ten worst areas for trying to buy your own retirement home - with the fewest per 1,000 older homeowners

1. Hyndburn (North West) 0.79 per 1,000 older homeowners
2. Caerphilly (Wales) 1.3 per 1,000
3. Bolsover (East Midlands) 2.14 per 1,000
4. Carmarthenshire (Wales) 2.16 per 1,000
5. North Lincolnshire 2.3 per 1,000
6. Ashfield (East Midlands) 2.34 per 1,000
7. Torfaen (Wales) 2.56 per 1,000
8. Islington (London) 3.03 per 1,000
9. Pembrokeshire (Wales) 3.11 per 1,000
10. Gwynedd (Wales) 3.51 per 1,000

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Why?

The root of the problem is that not enough retirement homes are being built. They ideally need to be on one floor, have room for hobbies, and come with a garden. This doesn't work for developers, who are trying to squeeze as many properties as possible into developments. They find it far more profitable to build homes for first time buyers.

The report found that retirement development peaked in the 1990s, and has been in the doldrums ever since. The population of over 65s has been soaring since the late 1990s, but the number of retirement homes being built has stayed resolutely below 10,000 every year since then.

To make matters worse, even when retirement homes were built between 1960 and 1985, they were all built for rental. It's only since the late 1990s that most have been built to sell, so that overall, just 26% of all retirement housing can be bought outright.

The research reveals that there are currently 105 retirement housing units per 1,000 older homeowners in England and Wales, and just 27 per 1,000 that can be owned rather than rented.

Another major problem is that many of the properties built between 1960 and 1985 were council properties with a single bedroom. Many older people now would not consider moving into a property with only one bedroom.

Knock-on effect

Retired people who want to own their own home therefore have the option of staying put or moving into a care home, and the cost of care is forcing them to stay trapped in family homes that they feel are too big, expensive and difficult to maintain.

It's a serious problem for older people, and it has a knock on effect on the rest of the population too. The fact that older people are stuck in family homes, means there's a shortage of larger properties for families to trade up into. This blockage has a knock-on effect across the housing market, leaving everyone else cramped into houses they are ready to move on from.

The problem is set to get worse. The researchers looked ahead to 2039, and calculated how many retirement properties would be needed in each area - compared to how many were likely to be built. It found that even to maintain the current rate - of having enough retirement housing for 7% of the retired population - we would need to build at twice the current rate.

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It identified the top ten areas most likely to see shortages:

Milton Keynes - which needs an increase in retirement homes of 104%
Bracknell Forest - which needs another 89.1%
Swindon - which needs anther 87.5%
Aylesbury Vale - which needs anther 86.9%
Uttlesford - which needs anther 86.8%
Slough - which needs anther 86.4%
East Northamptonshire - which needs anther 83.8%
Central Bedfordshire - which needs anther 81.1%
South Derbyshire - which needs anther 81.1%
Rushmoor - which needs anther 79.2%

The question is whether developers will tackle this shortage alone, or whether the government will need to intervene to stop the shortage of retirement housing from developing into a full-blown crisis.

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