ULI UK launched its ‘Later Living: Housing with Care’ guide at a sold-out event at Dentons, London, on Friday 1 November, which drew people from across the property industry to discuss Housing with Care in the Later Living sector, and guidance for best practice.
Stephanie McMahon, head of research at BNP Paribas, and Russell Pedley, co-founder of Assael Architecture and Chair of the ULI UK residential council, kickstarted the discussion on the demand for high-quality developments and how to meet that demand in finances, design and operations of these schemes.
The first panel included key authors of the ‘Later Living: Housing with Care’ report who addressed the growing opportunity and core principles that should dominate designing quality Housing with Care.
Clare Skidmore (strategic lead: influencing and networks at Housing LIN) pointed out that there is a major opportunity to not only provide quality care for the elderly but also alleviate the pressures on the NHS. Research by the ExtraCare Charitable Trust shows that those living in their properties with provided care saves the NHS £1,994 per resident and reduces costs by 38 per cent over a five-year period, on average.
But as Debra Yudolph (partner at SAY Property Consulting) and Sara Livadeas (chief executive of The Fremantle Trust) highlighted, care has to be managed well throughout the planning, delivery and management phases to ensure that residents are free from the worries of finances, loneliness and medical care.
And retirees should have a choice over the level of care and independence they want. Patrick Devlin (partner at PTE Architects) believes the answer is to incorporate ‘invisible’ care into design to create true homes. These thoughts were echoed by Phil Schmid (director at JLL) who said, “It’s about giving people the choice around how they manage their care, finances and living situation as they age.”
However, the sector still needs to see substantial change in legislation. “The UK currently has a patchwork of legislation with outdated care policies,” according to Michael Voges (executive director at ARCO), who added that we should be modelling ourselves on the clear definitions and regulations set out by New Zealand’s 2003 Retirement Villages Act.
There is a fantastic opportunity in Housing with Care in the Later Living sector for investment and operation, but there needs to be a clear guide for best practice if we want to provide aspirational homes for the ageing population.
One resident of Shenley Wood, David Tunney, sees the market as heading in this general direction. Speaking to Andrea Carpenter (director of the Women Talk Real Estate), Tunney said that Housing with Care in the Later Living sector offers him and his wife a close community with the freedom from worry of being medically vulnerable. And also the independence and autonomy that they’d expect from home.
But there is ultimately still a clear need for strategy, according to industry experts. In a panel chaired by Andrew Teacher (founder and managing director of Blackstock Consulting), Nick Sanderson (founder and CEO of Audley Group) pointed out that while the investment model is incredibly secure, compared to other alternative real estate assets, there is a lot more to be done.
“There are huge ways that we can work together and do more”, he said, entreating that if the industry wants to develop, then we need an absolute definition of what is good practice, what the model is, how it’s regulated, and what is safe. The best way to do that, he believes, is to work collectively to develop a very clearly defined, regulated sector under statute with codes of practice.
Nevertheless, the investment opportunity is there. Kevin Beirne (director of retirement and communities at Octopus Real Estate) said, “We’re all looking at the same fundamental demographics; it’s about an ageing population, who for the first time can look forward to a very long period of retirement and are relatively well-resourced. All of those fundamentals have hit home to investors.”
Housing with Care in the Later Living sector is still a nascent asset class, but the overwhelmingly positive response from speakers and delegates at the event demonstrated the wave of support across the industry. There are challenges, but with the ULI’s guide for best practice, we have a huge opportunity in schemes that will truly create aspirational homes for our ageing population.
Words by Sorrel Pompert Robertson, Blackstock Consulting