Welsh Older People’s Housing 2

This is the second post on the housing proposals in a report being considered by the Welsh Assembly.    This time it is all about the numbers, which is the acid test of whether aspiration can become reality.  All too often politicians promises fall at this hurdle.

The report starts at the outset, with a bold statement of intent that the aim is to build 20,000 affordable new homes for older people.  Certainly an aspiration worthy of the scale of the  problem.   If delivered, it would make a transformational difference to retirement housing in Wales.  So the key question has to be how realistic is it ?

  • The first thing is the date by which it will be achieved.  Dates always  slip back and planning delays go with the territory. Perhaps that is why I can’t find an end date.
  • the next key word is ” affordable “.   This makes the target even more challenging, because in total you would then have to build 40,00 new homes if optimistically you assume 50% of them could be affordable and all for older people.
  • The current rate of house building in Wales is around 6,000 new homes a year for all tenures and most of these are for family housing.   At that rate it would take 7 years to build 40,000 houses.

In your wildest dreams, let’s imagine for a minute that the 20,000 new homes for older people were to happen.   What would it mean on the ground ?

  • To reach the total of 20,000 you would have to build a big public and private programme of retirement housing.  The magnitude is unprecedented —-  20 retirement villages in the larger conurbations around Wales in for example :- 4 in Cardiff, 4 in the Swansea area, say 2 in Newport, a few in some of the valleys and some seaside towns like Llandudno.    ( It is hard to get to 20 ).     20 villages of 250 units each  = 5,000 homes.
  • Then you need to add 500 smaller schemes of say 30 units each in almost every remaining urban area.
  • Now all you need is the land —- say 6 acres for each village, that’s 120 acres, plus an acre and a half for each small scheme that’s another  750 acres.  In total not far off 1,000 acres !
  • Oh!  And the money.   Say at  £200,000 per unit for 20,000 homes that’s a capital cost of £4,000,000,000.    Yep £4 billion !

I am not claiming my fag packet assumptions are correct, but they are as likely to be as accurate as the pie in the sky figure of 20,000 new homes.    I would love for someone from the Welsh Government to explain how they got to that figure.

I want to be positive about these proposals, because they are laudably ambitious, which is essential, faced with the growing numbers of older people and their increasing age and frailty profile.

BUT  the devil is in the detail and  here are some of the barriers you first have to overcome :-

  1. Planners would need to accept that financial viability of affordable retirement housing is difficult.   They are expensive to construct if they have substantial communal spaces.  Then additional section 106 requirements for 50% affordability and CIL payments make it almost impossible without substantial housing grants.   That is why so little affordable retirement housing is being built anywhere in the U.K.    These schemes need a fair wind and planning requirements need to be relaxed.
  2. Revenue viability is also a challenge, made worse by the current squeeze on housing benefit and supported housing funds.
  3. The old financial models depended on high capital grant levels and high service charges supported by housing benefit.   That money is not coming back in these times of austerity, but there is still a huge asset locked up in Older People’s own homes.    The report highlights the high level of home ownership and calls for new ways to use these assets.

Therein lies the key to developing a big housing programme which doesn’t require substantial public funds, but it is an answer that requires a sophisticated understanding of housing finance and very careful marketing to older people themselves.

I will collect all these thoughts into a positive and innovative proposal in my final post on this report next Sunday.

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2 Responses to Welsh Older People’s Housing 2

  1. davidwfreeman237 says:

    Dear John! You have succinctly put into words and figures the meaning of providing housing for the elderly (all be it in response to a research/riddle being sought by the Welsh Assembly).
    I maybe teaching granny to ‘suck eggs’? However I wish to respond on the subject, as a user of ‘’elderly accommodation’’.
    There appears to be two main issues at play? With some influential side issues, which give rise to what looks at first glance as a complex situation.
    Housing— here one has to first acquire the land, then finance both the purchase, and its development.
    Healthcare— here one has the clinical requirements and the domestic requirements of pursuing as normal a self-sufficient life style as possible.
    Healthcare. Firstly I wish to deal with the social and health issues; here historically we have elderly citizens, who now live in the majority beyond 75+, by my own personal observations, as follows: History and the UKplc. (Britain) within my parents’ generation, and before the large industrial towns/cities and locally based industries [coal/steel/cotton/woollen/ hosiery/asbestos/railways/shipbuilding/construction/motor vehicles/tobacco, etc.] where the hazards were known about! However the income nationally was very important, and various factory acts-Health and Safety Acts where I respectfully suggested implemented to enhance, and ‘clean up’ these industries, and their production techniques, but not to the cost of the natural purse? (Tax system).
    The result I wish to assume is less of these debilitating industries and their production problems where they exist, are more beneficial to the preservation of life! Hence UKplc. Now has an increase, and expectancy of an older life style, both in actual years of survival and activities. Unfortunately we have from those work places and industrial centres, and town’s cities, persons who have worked with in these environments, and do suffer from the ‘as known’ chronic illnesses and ailments, from working and living in the said areas, and communities.
    The question is who ‘PAYS?’ Society, as person’s elderly, but who may have difficulty with infirmity and health problems to solve.
    Or the citizen and originally (through no fault of their own?) was offered employment, and independence of living, with some dignity within this society of ours. I suggest we all wish to be independent, serve our community, society and therefore give our children hope and vision for a more equitable lifestyle.
    This has all ways been, and will be a vexed problem or subject?
    Social/council housing is, and supposedly for the needy in society. The balance comes in the rented section of society, and the need for the investor (landholder) property developer; council or private to make a return on the original investment at a yearly rate that is above the rate of interest or cost of living index. One hopes and trusts the councils/government of the day are wise (Electoral voting preferences), and that the private investor is honest? Both these ideals have inbuilt faults as we as individuals in society expect on our financial dealings whether in multiples of pounds or hundreds of pounds expect a rewarding return; which again makes life, with respect to investments a risk and not a certainty. In the greater scheme of things, this is where one trusts the governments (ALL types) of the day to enrich, and improve the material and ideological way of life for its individual citizens. (Neither social or a capitalistic society way of life or beliefs but a mixture of them both intertwined)
    Back to the discussion in hand Housing for the elderly! I am unsure how we look at modern society, with its majority of elderly citizens/latter day family life with latter children’s births, and again, if one projects forward by 25-40 years; what then of the housing stock of UKplc? Should we just cater for the elderly (Non-working until 70+ of age in the future)? What type of accommodation, can be utilised for the future generations of younger people? Or are we advocating possible ‘SLUM’ developments, within no future practical use after the ‘’Bulge’’ of the elderly from the baby boom years of post war (WWII) Britain.
    The whole picture of what, why and how we provide modern housing may need a closer review, with less emotional viewpoints. One of my ideal thoughts is that with the ‘’internet age’’, and modern industry, the need for huge office complexes, and the lack of large conglomerate industrial bases in set localities; such as the old industrial towns/cities of Britain, maybe have passed on! And we are now looking at homes with the need to provide (Of a family of two children-two parents/guardians) and the dedicated bedrooms/ reception rooms/bathrooms and toilet facilities/kitchen, may have to include a room as a dedicated office (with all modern connections), so that the work place is home?
    This is a ‘’pipedream’’ for even as I scribble this note the media are full of government advice. That ladies with children, and childbearing age go to or back to work!, encouraging the belief that our children are to have a more full filling life brought up by ‘crèches’ and nursery schools and not by a mother? This is in not what I believe in! I wish to see a more balanced view of society, not wishing child production line, and a more responsible attitude to parenthood.
    This has been a ‘’RANT’’ I apologise! However the answer to the Housing problem is money and how it is balanced (Spent and invested) in society
    We are social animals at large and need to live and work in a worldly wise social society, no one person is an island!

  2. davidwfreeman237 says:

    Watch this budget 2107, and the chancellors posturing, and the health ministers smiles and grimaces during the budget speech in April 2017.
    There seems to be no one solution to the problems of shortage of hospital beds within the major hospitals, cottage hospitals closing at undue haste, and staff perplexed at what is expected of them, and surgeons ready to perform miracles the attending nursing staff and their attendance and training is a side problem, to be solved later. (It is all in the media!!)
    Care home and nursing homes, and residential homes within a community, private or state/local government, are mere pawns in this game of who gets the ‘LOLLY’ -cash to provide a coherent service, that serves both a social and health needs.
    Some thing is ‘rotten’ in the state of denmark, and it is not me ‘passing wind’???

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