Housing for older people
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Housing for Older People, second Report session 2017-18 (House of Commons Communities and Local government Committee), February 2018.

Thinkhouse looks at a wide range of housing reports including, in this case, a report from a Westminster committee. The Communities and Local Government Committee have been taking evidence on housing for older people and reported in February this year. These sorts of reports, readily available at the House of Commons website, provide a clear summary, an analysis of the evidence and recommendations for government and other policy actors. There is more of an analytical and diagnostic feel to the work that is done and less of an adversarial style, which is welcome.

The report stresses the neglected but growing importance of housing for older people. It sets about identifying key issues for this growing part of society and then makes nine key recommendations. It makes an important contribution to the debate in this field and one notes that an increasing number of research groups, reports and projects are rightly devoted to this area.

The Committee finds that older people are a diverse group and that there housing needs and issues are correspondingly broad and varied (as are the solutions). They also point to the considerable growth of ageing within British society wherein one of many challenges this trend creates is to ensure that the housing system is adequately prepared for and responsive to the new requirements that will be placed on it.

The evidence focused on key deficits in areas such as the adequacy and sufficiency of housing supply, repairs, maintenance, adaptations and access to financial advice. In turn, these sorts of problems require greater responsibility on the planning and housing functions, developers, lenders and providers of information and advice.

So, what is to be done? The committee makes nine key recommendations:
- The renewal of the first stop advice system with an expanded national telephone advice service;
- Ensuring the spread of handyperson agencies to every local authority;
- Customised support to help older people move, better lending facilities and advice on both Shared Ownership and Shared Equity products;
- Seeking that the national planning framework stresses the importance of provision for older people that makes their needs explicit; 
- Specialist housing should be properly identified, even with its own use class;
- Each council should have a formal strategy to show how it will meet older peoples’ housing needs, including a target proportion of new provision;
- All new housing should be ‘age proofed’ in the new building regulations;
- Better consumer and lender confidence in specialist housing should be enabled by pursuing appropriate legislation (following Law Commission proposals); and
- The proposed social care green paper should give due consideration to housing for older people, especially extra care housing and how it works alongside alternative modes.

Reflecting on the report I think there is a case for further analysis of the barriers and opportunities for older people moving to more suitable housing. These involve both structural and agency factors e.g. what is available and how is it changing, and the importance of transactions costs and uncertainty in making major financial and personal decisions (and the willingness to explore options and seek advice). I think we also need a better understanding of how major private and public sector stakeholders are gearing up to the growth of this sector. More research in these areas would be welcome and timely.