UK: retirement living sector pushes for Government support post-pandemic amid predictions of $11 billion hit to construction

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Around 0.6% of older people live in retirement living developments in the UK compared to 5% or more in Australia, New Zealand and the USA. In the wake of the country’s growing 42,000 COVID-19 death toll, suddenly ‘housing with care’ is in the spotlight.

The UK retirement living sector had been set to deliver another 125,000 independent living units – worth around £40 billion (AUD$73 billion) by 2030 before the pandemic – but it is now estimated the financial fallout from the virus could see the value of units being delivered drop by £6 billion (AUD$10.9 billion) by 2025.

To head off this scenario, the sector – led by the Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO) – has developed a Housing with care Growth Action Plan (HGAP) including a series of immediate actions for the Government fall including:

  • Implementing already announced – but not yet enacted – reforms to create clarity on fee structures and consumer protection.
  • Enabling a flexible approach to tenure models to provide greater choice to customers.
  • Reducing planning uncertainty by clarifying the status of housing with care in the planning system.

The group say this would attract new investment to the sector, citing a new survey of investors by CBRE showing that 95% would be more likely to invest if there were more clarity around housing with care in the planning system, while well over half would be more likely to invest if there were more clarity on regulation and fee structures.

They add that villages have shown during the pandemic that they can combine the “effective shielding” of older people with flexible onsite care and support and a wide range of services to keep residents active and socially connected – filling the gap between home care and residential care.

The measures have the support of major charitable providers, investors and a cross-party group of MPs (who have tabled a Parliamentary Early Day Motion on the issue).

So, will the plan find wider support?

Given the number of UK coronavirus deaths among over-60s living alone, it would seem a wise move on the Government’s part.

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