Could care in the home help solve the housing crisis?

There is significant interest in downsizing among the older generation but there is a shortage of suitable properties. One company is aiming to change that.

The UK is facing a housing crisis: as young people struggle to get onto the housing ladder, two in five homes are under-occupied.

Half of those homes are occupied by those aged 50 to 69, and with significant interest among the older generation in downsizing, but a severe shortage of suitable homes for them to move into, freeing up this housing stock for young families would relieve some of the pressure on the market.

“Founded in 1991, Audley Villages is a pioneer in the provision of luxury retirement living.”

It’s a great idea, but while there are currently 11.8 million people over the age of 65 in the UK, only 2pc of UK housing stock is currently dedicated retirement housing.

Nick Sanderson, chief executive of Audley Group, a business specialising in retirement villages, realised that one thing preventing retirees moving house is the lack of aspirational retirement properties with optional care.

“Older people know exactly where and how they want to live. And it was clear that the demand was there for a new type of retirement property, with facilities and care on site,” he says.

Founded in 1991, Audley Villages is a pioneer in the provision of luxury retirement living. As well as the properties themselves, each village includes an Audley Club, with facilities including a restaurant, bar/bistro, library, a health and wellbeing centre and swimming pool.

Mr Sanderson says he entered the sector after seeing “an opportunity to improve the quality of residential care”. He opened Beaumont Healthcare at the age of 22, but soon felt as though he was “trying to fix a broken model”.

As many older people will attest, it is important to retain their independence and actively enjoy their leisure time, with homes that reflect what are frequently active and social lives.

Mr Sanderson says that what the housing market needs is an option for people to retain their independence and live in specialist, aspirational properties that can adapt to their changing needs and not restrict them in later years.

Flexibility in retirement
Audley Group offers properties in that model financed by older people releasing the value in their own homes and downsizing without reducing the quality of their lives.

Mr Sanderson says that when the model was introduced  in the UK, there was a “fear factor” that needed to be overcome. “The concept of retirement villages was unknown in this country, so people feared the only option was a care home,” he says.

“Audley properties are designed and built to give the feel of a boutique hotel, and unsurprisingly demand remains extremely high.”

“In housing, age is irrelevant. People are looking for different things at every stage of life, and their choice of home needs to flex to meet those desires. That’s the case whether it is a home you can lock up and leave to travel the world, knowing that your things are secure, or somewhere with on-site facilities to stay active, or somewhere that you can access the care you need, when you need it.”

Audley Group offers services that are sensitive to the range of needs that its homeowners may require, or develop as they get older, from offering help with grocery shopping, right through to 24/7 care, meaning that for most people, there is no need to have to move anywhere else.

Audley properties are designed and built to give the feel of a boutique hotel, and unsurprisingly demand remains extremely high.

The Audley model is thriving and expanding and the group has recently launched a new brand, Mayfield Villages, to meet the needs of customers in the mid-market, representing around 4.5m British homeowners.

With 86pc of those aged over 55 owning their own homes, and nearly half of those willing to downsize, the company feels there is plenty of room left for growth.

“There is a chronic care crisis in the UK as well as an escalating housing shortage,” says Mr Sanderson. “Retirement villages like our own are a vital part of the solution. It’s old-fashioned joined-up thinking – and has the added benefit of doing the most important thing: giving the customer what they want.”

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