Launching the Housing with Care Opportunity

Last week, the UK National Council of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) launched its latest guide, ‘Later Living: Housing with Care’ at their sold-out event, drawing people from across the property industry to discuss Housing with Care in the Later Living sector, and key guidance for best practice.

After opening the event with Stephanie McMahon, head of research at BNP Paribas, we kickstarted the discussion on the demand for high-quality Housing with Care that has grown ever more prevalent in the UK. But in order to meet this demand, the ULI wanted to demonstrate the need for a clear Housing with Care strategy in the Later Living sector that encompassed the entire built environment ecosystem - from finance, to design, to operations. The result is the Later Living: Housing with Care report.

The first panel was joined by key authors of the report, Clare Skidmore (strategic lead: influencing and networks at Housing LIN); Debra Yudolph (partner at SAY Property Consulting); Sara Livadeas (chief executive of The Fremantle Trust); Patrick Devlin (partner at PTE Architects); Phil Schmid (director at JLL); and Michael Voges (executive director at ARCO), who addressed the core principles that should dominate designing quality Housing with Care.

"Housing with Care in the Later Living sector should be about offering comfortable homes to our ageing population"

Providing quality care

Housing with Care in the Later Living sector should be about offering comfortable homes to our ageing population, but currently the UK is facing a severe lack of viable options. Sara Livadeas pointed out that the first consideration in the market should be ensuring residents are happy and healthy by offering schemes that reduce the need to worry about finances, loneliness and medical care.

It’s important that this attention to care is managed throughout the planning, design, delivery and management process. As Debra Yudolph highlighted, we must harness lessons from the hospitality sector to deliver what residents want.

  "It's about giving people the choice around how they manage their care, finances and living situation as they age,'' noted Phil Schmid.

Michael Voges, however, pointed out that where the sector needs to see substantial change is ensuring this quality is in legislation. He explained that the UK currently has a patchwork of legislation, with outdated care policies. One option is for the UK to model itself on the more mature example set by New Zealand’s 2003 Retirement Villages Act, which clearly defines the country’s sector and sets out regulations and the responsibilities for operators and residents.

With clear policy outlines, as is shown in New Zealand, we can ensure that we’re creating these aspirational homes with quality care. Not only will this build true communities, but it can help alleviate the pressures on our health services. Research by the ExtraCare Charitable Trust shows those living in their properties with provided care saves the NHS £1,994 per resident and reduces costs by 38 per cent over a five-year period, on average. 

There is a fantastic opportunity in Housing with Care in the Later Living sector for investment and operation, but stakeholders need to be more informed of best practice if we want to secure a stable consumer base and ensure elderly residents are able to thrive in their new homes.

What the industry thinks

This need for strategy was echoed in a panel chaired by Andrew Teacher, founder and managing director of Blackstock Consulting, who spoke to a number of representatives from across the industry, including Louise Drew (partner at Shakespeare Martineau); Nick Sanderson (founder and CEO of Audley Group); Kevin Beirne (director of retirement and communities at Octopus Real Estate); and Neil Revely (co-chair for ADASS Housing Policy Network and LGA) on how they perceive the Housing with Care opportunity in the Later Living sector.

As Nick Sanderson pointed out, the investment model is incredibly secure compared to other alternative real estate assets.

“The actual product is about delivering a good service to people who actually need that service. The investment model that we’re offering is that you create a village, sell it, and return all of the costs in developing the village, with an income stream at the end of it which is very high-quality, very long-term, and stable,” he explained.

Kevin Beirne agreed saying:

“We’re all looking at the same fundamental demographics; it’s about an ageing population, who for the first time can look forward to a very long period of retirement and are relatively well-resourced. All of those fundamentals have hit home to investors.”

However, Sanderson pointed out that there was a lot more to be done, “There are huge ways that we can work together and do more”, entreating that if the industry wants to develop, then we need an absolute definition. This means defining what is good practice, what the model is, how it’s regulated, and what is safe. The best way to do that, he believes, is to work collectively, like New Zealand have, to develop a very clearly defined, regulated sector under statute with codes of practice.

What the residents think

One of the most interesting speakers in Friday’s discussions was David Tunney, a resident of Shenley Wood, who spoke to Andrea Carpenter (director of the Women Talk Real Estate) about what first attracted him to his Housing with Care community.

For Tunney and his wife, Housing with Care in the Later Living sector offers a close community with the freedom from worry of being medically vulnerable. But crucially, the residents are given the independence and autonomy that they’d expect from home.

Shirley Hall, Head of Innovation and Wellbeing at The Extra Care Charitable Trust (ECCT), emphasised this point saying that residents are encouraged to develop their wellbeing and set themselves achievable goals to improve and sustain their own physical health, rather than always relying on professional care.

Housing with Care in the Later Living sector is still a nascent asset class, but the overwhelmingly positive response from industry speakers and delegates at the event demonstrated the support from consumers, local authorities, private developers and investors. There are challenges, but with the ULI’s guide for best practice, we have a huge investment opportunity to encourage a new wave of schemes that truly understand our ageing population’s needs, and can respond to the demographic shift already underway in the UK. 

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