Making retirement living affordable: the role of shared ownership housing for older people

SO-HAPPI report cover

Launched in December 2021, this APPG Inquiry co-chaired by Lord Best and Peter Aldous MP, was established to "promote discussion and set the agenda for developing better, more joined up housing and care for older people, promising greater choices in later life." It sought to specifically assess the potential of shared ownership for an ageing population.

Its resultant report, 'Making retirement living affordable: the role of shared ownership housing for older people' is based on evidence sessions and written submissions to the year-long Inquiry from shared owners, housing providers, housing organisations, academics, lenders, regulators, advisers and housing experts.

Sponsored by Housing 21, the SO-HAPPI report by the Smith Institute was formally launched on Monday, 16 January 2023 in the House of Lords. Speaking at the launch, Lord Best stated that with modifications, shared ownership could be a gamechanger in making 'right-sizing' an affordable option for thousands of people. He highlighted how the report evaluates the key issues concerning the development of the market for shared ownership for older people, with particular regard to the government's current Older People's Shared Ownership scheme.

On the key issues around stronger consumer protection, better product awareness and understanding, resales and 'staircasing', the report links to health and social care, planning and design. It also comments on the current situation and sets out 24 recommendations for improving the offer and supporting the growth of the sector. They include:

  • The sector, with support from advice agencies and from Homes England, should work to raise awareness of the product - including its longer-term costs and benefits - with stakeholders and directly with older people, their families and solicitors.
  • The government's forthcoming leasehold reform legislation should strengthen the rights of shared owners, as well as other leaseholders, to outlaw poor practices.
  • To build consumer confidence, government and the sector should examine whether buy back schemes that ensure a fair price can be designed, with measures to ensure there are not long delays in the sales process.
  • Government should enhance the OPSO grant funding regime in order to make the programme more financially viable and attractive to providers.
  • The government's Older People's Housing Taskforce should include analysis of the ways in which a major expansion of shared ownership for older people can be achieved.
  • Government should provide clearer and stronger planning guidance to ensure local plans adequately facilitate the delivery of different types of housing for older people.
  • DLUHC and housing providers should commission research into the development of underserved older people's housing markets.

The Housing LIN's Jeremy Porteus was privileged to be an expert member on the APPG SO-HAPPI Inquiry Panel. He said:

"We need to see a greater diversity of choices in our housing for an ageing population. To achieve this, the previous HAPPI report primarily focussed on age-friendly design and architectural quality. But this Inquiry report reminds us we also need to improve the range of tenure options and, in particular, the potential for an increased market share for shared ownership products that older people trust and want. Importantly, the SO-HAPPI report makes a forceful argument on how this can be delivered to boost awareness and, in turn, the market."