In our latest planning and development Q&A, Lydia Harper looks at the potential growth of the retirement living sector and the opportunities that exist for landowners and developers.
What are the key benefits of purpose-built retirement living developments?
The projects we have been involved in include ‘extra care’ living which means residents can live independently, for example within their own apartment, but with an element of care available on site.
These developments usually offer access to spacious communal lounges to provide a place for residents to socialise and join in activities. Other amenities and services, such as hairdressing services or consultation rooms, can be provided on site too.
In terms of benefits to the community, these retirement developments are providing people the opportunity to stay in the neighbourhoods they know and where their existing connections are.
They can delay full residential care and hospital admittance for many people. It’s usually financially better for the resident and allows family housing to come back onto the market for other local people wanting to stay in the area.
Do retirement homes and villages represent an underserved market with significant potential for growth?
While most older people express a desire to stay in their own home, it has often become unsuitable and unadaptable to their physical needs.
Residents often wish to stay around family and friends, but there is little provision in existing housing stock and in new houses being built as building regulations for adaptable buildings are optional.
This growing demand means there’s massive growth potential for extra care schemes and bespoke retirement villages.
How should landowners go about exploring the possibility of selling off their land for retirement living development?
They should firstly consult expert planning advice to see if a residential care development is possible, both in terms of planning law and feasibility. Retirement living developments need to be in sustainable locations with good transport links and preferably close to existing healthcare services, such as health centres and GP surgeries.
From a developer point of view, they should also be in areas where demand for care services is likely to be strong, such as in well-established communities where older people can still be close to family and friends. Partnering with an established developer or care provider will increase the chances of coming up with a viable scheme.
What are the opportunities for house builders and developers to diversify into the retirement living sector?
There are already a number of well-established names in the retirement living sector, some of them operating nationally and others on a more regional level. Their years of experience and knowledge naturally give them a head start.
However, there are great opportunities for other developers, housebuilders and contractors to gain a foothold in the sector.
It’s no secret that people are living much longer, so one would expect government is going to be investing far more funding into adult social care and specialist housing developments in the coming years.
This growing demand does offer opportunities for forward thinking developers who can bring well-designed, high-quality care developments to the market.
However, it needs a joined-up approach between government, local authorities, healthcare professionals, developers and architects to ensure the types of care development being built now are suitable for current and future housing needs.