Are housing associations ready for an ageing population?

Author: Martin Wheatley
Published by The Smith Institute, January 2015

This survey of landlords suggests high general awareness of population ageing, though it is not clear that landlords’ business planning matches the scale of the challenge. The response tends to be short term and symptomatic rather than longer term and preventive. Landlords are naturally concerned about the economics of new development; they are heavily dependent on funding from shrinking local authority budgets, and relationships with the healthcare sector mostly appear weak.

The report suggests that housing associations need to:

  • Understand their existing ageing customers better, and potential new customers; and actively listen to them as well as using hard data
  • Be clear about the implications of population ageing for their capital programme, existing stock and new build. How the latter should best cater for older people is a crucial question
  • Develop service offers which emphasise the promotion of personal, social and economic wellbeing, and are based on strong partnership with the world of healthcare and local councils. The sector is well placed to be a strong part of better, more effective local service provision for older people.

The current public policy response is inadequate to the scale of the challenge. National government needs to show stronger leadership in:

  • Ensuring that there is sufficient funding to meet the housing needs of older people. This must form an important part of the step change in housing investment required more broadly.
  • Strengthening the emphasis of national planning policy on development for meeting the needs of older people
  • Promoting and enabling strong concerted local responses bringing together health, councils (across functions) and housing associations.

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