Britain’s population is ageing, and with the current under supply of purpose-built retirement housing, scaling up a dedicated Later Living sector has become a matter of urgency. Luckily, there is a blueprint for growth and innovation on which this emerging sector can draw from: Build to Rent (BTR).
The growth of BTR has been phenomenal, with a 478% increase in developments over the last five years, as a Savills report shows. (opens new window) Currently, there are over 140,090 homes completed or under construction, according to the British Property Federation. BTR is set to make a substantial contribution to the UK’s housing stock, attracting considerable investment and ramping up output, creating a genuine alternative within the private rental sector.
Purpose-designed, professionally managed buildings with a strong amenity offering in central urban locations makes BTR an aspirational lifestyle choice for all. Later Living can do the same for downsizers and rightsizers. In fact, BTR is already demonstrating its aspirational appeal, with 6% of BTR renters being downsizers, according to Knight Frank (opens new window).
Currently, the phrase “retirement home” does little to ignite the imagination of the British public, with many people harbouring negative connotations. To get around this, Later Living must offer fresh, accessible and genuinely aspirational housing products that break with the status quo. Design should allow for the operational needs of care providers and building management teams, ensuring that care is intrinsic to the offer.
In addition to care, the other big design drivers are connectivity, community and activity.
Like BTR, Later Living can use urban locations to provide the connectivity and activity that many desire. These developments are then tied into existing social infrastructure and transport links which are often lacking in suburban and rural locations, the traditional locations for retirement homes.
What’s more, urban locations plug Later Living developments into vibrant communities, encouraging integration which can help address the issues of isolation and loneliness. By simply allocating some ground floor space and organising initiatives with the local community, Later Living developments can be transformed into community hubs.
Management services, such as an onsite concierge, can be extended to Later Living developments too, providing residents with care professionals and offering flexibility in the role of both management and care.
For the ageing population, having properties designed around their needs is essential. By incorporating the operationally efficient design principles of BTR into Later Living, retiree residents can enjoy a far better level of comfort than what is currently on offer in many retirement homes.
Density drives the offer in BTR. This pays for the amenities and building management team, with developments typically 250 apartments and above. Similarly, we should promote larger scale communities in Later Living that make for a more attractive investment proposition.
We know that rent in retirement is a small part of the tenure mix at present, but this will change over time. Through investment and care-focused design, we can learn from the successes of BTR, and build developments more attuned to the needs of older people. And with an estimated 400,000 shortfall of Later Living accommodation by 2030 (opens new window), we urgently need to boost the supply of housing for people in later life. This calls for a new form of BTR - Build to Retire!