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Building the right stuff in the right place?

Tue 02 Feb 2016

It seems timely to consider, when discussing the offering we make in the housing world to the older population looking to secure appropriate housing, the HAPPI3 inquiry. 

This, established once again by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People, and leading on from (guess what!) the HAPPI report and HAPPI2, continues to seek out examples of the best and innovative practice, exploring different service options, and advocating for improvement in standards and practice in the management of retirement properties.

There are four inquiry sessions currently being held, between October 2015 and March 2016, with the final HAPPI3 report expected to be published in 2017.

The original HAPPI panel stressed the importance of design in the provision of housing for older people and identified ten crucial elements to achieving not just housing for older people, but “age inclusive housing”. 

Certainly, those aspirations would be attractive to any person looking for accommodation: including generous internal space standards, plenty of natural light (both in the home and circulation spaces, as well as avoiding internal corridors) and in single aspects flats seeking to secure the provision of balconies and outside space.

Of primary importance were the proposals for both adaptability and “care aware” design, and avoiding any form of institutional feel in the accommodation. 

Key to all successful and sustainable communities, the provision of share facilities and community hubs will be attractive to any occupier, as will be the emphasis on plants, trees and the natural environmental. 

Energy efficiency is of importance to all home occupiers, whether from a moral, ecological or indeed merely a financial viewpoint.  Storage for belongings and bicycles is key, as well as shared external areas giving priority to pedestrians.

The HAPPI3 enquiries will take into consideration current research on the lives, aspirations and housing outcomes of all of older home owners in the UK, and also look at alternative housing options, including older renters and how impacts changing dynamics in the private renting section will have policies for older people.

Whilst it seems that the vast majority of newspaper focus continues to focus on the “plight” end of prospective first time buyers and working families, it is interesting to see that switch here to target housing and care for older people.

From the writer’s viewpoint, the demands and needs of older people and their housing has been somewhat ignored, even with the interest being shown at the anticipated/feared impact of the Housing and Planning Bill on the provision of affordable housing for those who cannot afford to purchase. 

Interestingly, reports appear to show that those who are purchasing shared owner properties are increasingly those older and richer buyers, and not necessarily those looking for a first step on the housing ladder, or the usual “key worker” target groups. 

Are we now seeing a further rental shift in this type of provision whereby all individuals priced out of the open market end will turn increasingly to the now often key housing association product -the shared ownership offering? 

Coupled with the potential impact seen by early commentators on the Housing and Planning Bill, will we see an almost complete eradication of low cost rented accommodation being required pursuant to the planning process, and with the focus switching back to owner occupation? 

As HAPPI3 continues its focus on matters of authority, choice and control as well as looking at the technology and innovation of potential of housing for older people, it is interesting to note that they maintain the focus on clarity, certainty and costs, which will be factors key to all those who fund housing, whatever age they may be.

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