Author Archives: joeoldman

‘Housing in Later Life’ – one size fits all won’t work

HousesThe launch of  a new Age UK report, ‘Housing in Later Life’, coincides with several important policy developments which are likely to impact on the housing options open to all older people, both now and in the future.

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Housing inequality and older people

Does housing wealth really have untapped potential to fund care and support options for older people? Recently Age UK held a policy seminar on housing inequality among older people to consider this and a number of other related questions, with the help of some leading experts. The conclusions they drew seem to challenge a number of faulty assumptions about housing wealth – assumptions that are shaping the thinking of policy makers. Dr Beverly Searle of St. Andrew’s University offered an alternative and more complex picture of the distribution of housing prosperity in England and the implications for policy.

167x167_older-asian-cplDr Searle described dramatic geographical variations in the location of housing wealth – linked to house prices – which determine the equity available to older people and the choices they can make. Dr Searle found that 42% of housing wealth is concentrated in London and the South East, while 20% is located in the North East, Yorkshire and Humberside and the North West combined. Only 3% of housing wealth is found in North East.  These inequalities mean that some housing and care options will only be available in affluent places, while choices for older people in poorer areas decline.

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Can we improve the quality of new homes for future generations?

The Government has now released its long-awaited consultation paper on building standards. So far the press have mainly focused on space standards, rather than the implications for accessibility. The Government’s review considers several options to make progress, while recognising the challenges of a rapidly ageing society. The main proposal on accessibility is to establish three levels for building standards to take account of differences in local housing need. At the moment, Part M of the building regulations determines the ‘visitabilty’ of new homes. This covers areas such as level step free entrance and floor, and having a downstairs loo. The Government propose that this should remain a baseline standard that applies to all housing.

At the same time they suggest, as one option, an ‘intermediate’ second level standard that could be based on the lifetime homes standard and a third level for specialist wheelchair accessible housing. This would mean that the number of homes built to either the prescribed ‘lifetime homes’ or wheelchair access levels 440x210-woman-leaning-on-fireplacewould be determined by projected local demand, following a local authority’s assessment.  While giving local authorities flexibility it would establish a consistent standard at each of the suggested levels to reduce the cost and complexity of the variety of different local requirements, which are applied at the moment. Continue reading

Have your say – a better deal for older leaseholders

The retirement homes sector has come under fire in recent years over reportedly unfair practices by some retirement housing providers – aspects of which have recently been investigated by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).  Problems include confusing service charges, lack of competitive tendering for maintenance contracts, high transfer fees, high commission charges on building insurance and unfair rental charges for wardens flats.

In response to these concerns, the Association of Retirement Housing Managers 440x210-woman-leaning-on-fireplace(ARHM) – which the majority of providers are members of – has worked with Age UK and a panel of leasehold residents to improve their voluntary code of practice.  The ARHM has also given older people and their families the opportunity to help shape the new code to improve practice in the retirement home industry. This consultation comes after a recent roundtable discussion, chaired by the Housing Minister, Mark Prisk, looking at promoting best practice in the sector. This is helpful, but it is vital that as well as listening to the views of the retirement housing industry, residents also have an opportunity to express their views and influence Government policy. Continue reading