'Housing for older people' report calls for more HIAs and Handyperson services

Like any other age group, older people are diverse and their housing needs and options are similarly varied, reflecting their age, tenure, geographical location, income, equity, health and individual preferences. The committee found that this gives rise to a range of issues— from home maintenance, adaptations and repairs, to access to financial advice, and to housing supply—all of which are reflected in this report.

The report calls for a national strategy which brings together and improves the policy on housing for older people, and encompasses the recommendations made in this report.

Foundations, who submitted written evidence to the Committee, welcomes the key recommendations, as follows:

The existing FirstStop Advice Service should be re-funded by the Government to provide an  expanded national telephone advice service, providing holistic housing advice to older people and signposting them to local services.

Central to the national strategy is wider availability of housing advice and information to help older people make informed and timely choices about how and where they live.

The coverage of Home Improvement Agencies (HIA) should be expanded so there is access to at least one HIA with a handyperson service in each local authority area. 

Most older people do not plan to move and wish to stay in their current home as long as possible. HIAs and handyperson services, undertaking small repairs, maintenance and adaptations, have a significant role to play in ensuring that the homes of those who ‘stay put’ are comfortable, healthy and safe.

A range of measures to help older people overcome the barriers to moving home should be implemented: an accreditation for companies which provide tailored services for older people moving home; better customer service and guidance from lenders when applying for a mortgage; and widened access to shared ownership and shared equity.

Many older people would like to move in later life but often the practical, financial and emotional aspects of moving home prevent or delay them from doing so.

The National Planning Policy Framework should be amended to emphasise the key importance of the provision of housing for older people and the new standard approach to assessing need should explicitly address the housing needs of older people.

To facilitate the delivery of new homes, specialist housing should be designated as a sub-category of the C2 planning classification, or be assigned a new use class.

Councils should publish a strategy explaining how they intend to meet the housing needs of older people in their area and, in their Local Plans, identify a target proportion of new housing to be developed for older people along with suitable, well-connected sites for it.

National and local planning policy should give greater encouragement to the development of housing for older people. Older people who wish to move should be able to choose from a wide range of housing to accommodate their needs and preferences. However, the evidence presented to the committee suggested there was a shortage of desirable mainstream,  accessible and specialist housing and bungalows in both the private and social sectors.

All new homes should be built to the Category 2 Building Regulations standard so that they are ‘age proofed’ and can meet the current and future needs of older people.

The Government should accept the Law Commission’s code of practice and consider introducing sector specific legislation in order to promote consumers’ and lenders’ confidence in specialist housing.

Accessible and specialist homes are a key to housing an ageing population. Specialist housing, particularly extra care housing, can promote the health and well-being of older people and their carers. However, concerns about the costs related to this type of housing and lenders’ reluctance to provide mortgage finance for specialist housing may prevent older people from purchasing this type of property.

The social care green paper should consider the range of housing for older people, in particular the potential for extra care housing to play a greater role in providing social care alongside home care and residential care. 

The right kind of housing can keep older people healthy, support them to live independently and in the longer-term reduce the need for home care or residential care and lead to savings in health and social care budgets. The national strategy should take full account of this and be closely linked with the forthcoming social care green paper.

Download the report