The Future of Retirement Housing: retirement is changing beyond all recognition

Nov 9, 2015 | BLOG

By: Howard Nankivell, Anchor

This blog is one in a series of blogs on the Future of Ageing, published in the lead up to the ILC-UK Future of Ageing conference on the 24th November. To register to attend this conference, click here.

Retirement is changing beyond all recognition. Many people are living healthier lives for longer. But more will need to manage multiple long-term conditions including, unless a cure is found, dementia.

Public funding for care services has already been hit and those pressures will intensify in the coming decades. At the same time, a generation of baby boomers will reach retirement with higher expectations about the kind of housing and care services they want. Many, though by no means all, will have amassed significant housing assets.

We will need new, innovative forms of retirement housing and care services to respond to these trends. Good-quality retirement housing – with additional care and support available flexibly when needed – has huge potential to help people live healthier and longer lives. But there is too little appealing retirement housing on the market.

Design has an important role to play. Innovative design can promote more active living, give people more choice and control over how they live, and facilitate the development of vibrant communities. Retirement housing needs to be designed in a way that enables residents to draw on additional care and support services as and when needed, rather than waiting until a point of crisis.

We are already seeing some exciting innovations. For example, Anchor retirement villages offer extra-care and assisted living to support residents to live independently for longer. The response to these services has been overwhelmingly positive and local demand is extremely strong. But there remain significant barriers to developing at scale.

Government has an important role to play in ensuring there is a flourishing retirement housing market, given its social benefits and the wider impact it could have. That is why we believe the government should convene a national taskforce on retirement housing.

The government needs to drastically overhaul significant parts of its housing strategy to ensure older people are able to live in safe, appropriate housing that enables other homebuyers to move up or onto the housing ladder. It should set up a national taskforce of developers, ministers and local government to produce a national strategy for increasing the supply of retirement housing. And it should ensure all local authorities have a robust housing strategy for older people.

Research has highlighted that one-off upfront costs – for example, stamp duty – discourage older people from moving. Exempting retirement housing from stamp duty – as recommended by the APPG on housing and care – would stimulate the market by significantly reducing these one-off costs. And, because this would stimulate the rest of the housing market by freeing up properties older people are moving out of, it is unlikely to come at a loss to the Treasury, as stamp duty revenues from other sales will increase as a result. In fact, research by Oxford Brookes University suggests that a stamp duty exemption could even generate revenues of around £650m a year for the Treasury.

The planning system throws up significant disincentives to the development of retirement housing, including the subjection of retirement housing developments to Section 106 Agreements and the Community Infrastructure Levy, despite its wider social benefits. Government should introduce reforms to the planning system to incentivise – rather than disincentivise – the building of more retirement housing.

Such changes could support forward-thinking providers to expand access to innovative retirement housing across the country and the income spectrum.

Howard Nankivell


Howard is experienced in the delivery and management of high performing retirement communities and managing over 30,000 retirement units across England.