THE BLOG

Building Our Way to a Brighter Future: Are Politicians Parking the Issue?

12/11/2014 12:54 GMT | Updated 11/01/2015 10:59 GMT

Today sees a number of organisations unite for #HousingDay, which is being led by the Homes for Britain campaign, to put the housing crisis at the top of the political agenda. It is an issue which resonates with politicians and this year's party conferences saw all three major parties pledge to build from 100,000 to 300,000 new homes every year. The most significant building block is in place: there is broad consensus behind the case to build more houses.

The campaign does raise important questions that must form part of the debate. What will this development drive look like? Will it meet the needs of our future population, which will be larger and older?

To truly end the housing crisis we need homes that are fit for purpose for everyone. As the ranks of older people in our society grow, so must the proportion of retirement housing. As outlined in Anchor's Grey Pride manifesto, just 2% of the country's housing stock is retirement housing. So how do we house an older population that is expected to increase by 50% by 2030? It is a crucial question that is not being effectively addressed, or even discussed.

Housing that is suitable for older generations is vital for happy, independent living in later years. This might include housing with care and 24-hour support, provisions for mobility wheelchair-users, and retirement housing where daily interaction with fellow older residents tackles the isolation that so many people face living alone at home. It's not a nice-to-have: retirement housing must be an option for people to live our older years with dignity and happiness.

We know that many older people want to downsize from their homes to retirement housing: previous research from Demos shows that a third of over-60s want to downsize with 58% of those wanting to move saying they couldn't because of a lack of supply of retirement property. This is a scandalous situation that confronts many of today's older people, which may well lead to greater isolation of older generations.

New retirement housing developments also provide real benefits for younger people and first-time buyers: enabling older people to downsize into retirement housing frees up properties for younger people further down the property ladder.

Roads to change

When this new housing is built, this will inevitably mean changes to local infrastructure and new roads being built. At present, older people face a disproportionately high number of accidents on the road - the Department for Transport reports that older people are between two and five times more likely to be killed or suffer a serious injury on the road than a younger person.

As more people live longer this is a disturbing anomaly that needs to be addressed. The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety has previously called for well-lit, large road signs with junctions being kept clear of hedges and other obstacles which obstruct a clear view of oncoming traffic. The International Longevity Centre also believes the Government should lead on improvements in road infrastructure, including clearer signage, to benefit drivers of all ages. As developers build new roads we must ensure that these, along with new homes, are future fit for an older population.

As our country rolls up its sleeves to build more homes for Britain, we need to do so with our growing older population at the forefront of our minds. This is why we are calling for a Minister for Older People who would address these issues and ensure a better quality of life for today's older people as well as for future older generations. At present, successive governments are parking the issue.