Our urban populations are ageing and we are not ready says a new report by Future of London.
The report entitled Housing Older Londoners follows six months of research with Arup, Barton Willmore, British Land and Pollard Thomas Edwards.
With Future of London, these organisations looked at how the capital should manage the 48% rise in the number of over 60-year-olds and a 70% increase in over 80-year-olds by 2035. The assumptions that retirees will move (or can be moved) to the country are outdated: increasingly, older people are choosing to remain in cities.
This desire to stay within cities puts London’s booming older population into direct competition for housing and space with families, professionals and students. While the latter groups can be more asset-poor, most can increase their income, something out of the question for many older people. How will this demographic afford the housing they want, and as a sector, how can we afford to provide the amenities they need?
Housing Older Londoners calls for:
• Planning & Policy: raising the profile of older people and addressing gaps
Older people have very diverse needs and aspirations yet historically have been treated as a single homogenous group. Local authorities need to better understand the dynamics of the ageing population. Consultation with older people and use of health data can build a more accurate picture of local need.
• Housing: fit-for-purpose products and better information
The housing offer for older people is complex and poorly understood, and there is a huge gap in the ‘middle market’ between sheltered housing and high end. Unleashing the potential here will require a clear offer; a sector with a unified voice; and policy and legislative changes.
• Neighbourhoods: joined-up thinking for health, accessibility and inclusivity.
The everyday environment is crucial for health and wellbeing but requires cross-organisational and cross sector working. Establishing ambassadors for older people within local authorities and housing associations can co-ordinate strategy and delivery across teams could help ensure the needs of older people are understood and met.
Future of London’s Chief Executive, Lisa Taylor said, “Future of London’s research revealed a strong, shared desire from investors, developers, local authorities, housing associations and designers to improve the housing offer for older people, and specifically to address the alarming middle market gap. It’s time to take this broad will and convert it into action through an older peoples’ housing sector manifesto that raises its profile and establishes a unified voice to influence plan-making and policy.”
“Inclusive design and policy is central to London’s future growth and prosperity,” says Sowmya Parthasarathy, Associate Director, Arup, and Mayor’s Design Advocate. “If the city is to continue to succeed, built environment professionals must recognise and respond to the opportunities, as well as the challenges, presented by an ageing society. We should all advocate for the design of spaces and places that accommodate all generations, this diversity is a key ingredient in the development of a rich, vibrant and liveable city.”
The report highlights examples of success from as far afield as Kashiwa City in Japan where the focus is on the social integration of the neighbourhood not just its housing. Pioneering models can also be found much closer to home such as New Ground in Barnet – the UK’s first co-housing project for older residents. Opened in 2016, New Ground was 20 years in the making. The six women pioneers who formed Older Women’s CoHousing (OWCH) for women over the age of 50 were supported by architects, Pollard Thomas Edwards.
Pollard Thomas Edwards’ Partner, Patrick Devlin said, “Everyone is agreed on the need for high quality housing for older Londoners; Older Women’s CoHousing have shown how it can be done. It has been inspiring to work with a group of women of such focus and enthusiasm, and to see how beautifully they are inhabiting their homes. New Ground should be a strong encouragement to other committed and organised groups to realise their own dream projects.”
Large scale developments need to work with communities and bring these groups in as early as possible, an approach British Land are championing at Canada Water with their Canada Water Masterplan. A new town centre including 3500 homes will appeal to a broader market including an older generation and moving away from the narrow and volatile markets of young professionals and overseas off-plan sales.
Emma Cariaga, Head of Operations for Canada Water, British Land said, “If we want to continue to support our city we need to ensure it is a place that is attractive to all generations. The Future of London older people’s housing manifesto will help to create places where generations can come together, support one another and make social connections. It will make meaningful in-roads into resolving rising levels of loneliness and social isolation.
“We at British Land want to ensure that Canada Water is a place that is loved for and by generations. By providing a mix of housing products suitable for a range of needs, life-stages, and incomes, we can ensure households can stay in the community as their needs evolve over time.”
The full report and executive can be found on the Future of London website