By Cllr David Renard, Local Government Association housing spokesperson
The country’s shortage of homes is well-documented, and councils are eager to play a central role in tackling the housing crisis and building high-quality homes that local people can afford and that are so desperately needed.
Our recent report, Delivery of council housing: a stimulus package post-pandemic, calls for the Government to address this by giving councils the tools and powers to build 100,000 social homes a year, as part of the national recovery from COVID-19.
If the Government wants to achieve its target of 300,000 homes a year, then councils need to be empowered to get building again on a scale not seen since the 1970s, when local government built 40 per cent of homes.
Of this, we believe accessible and dedicated older people housing need to be key components of our mission to build new homes.
We know that good housing is a major contributor to good health and care and the foundation upon which people can achieve quality of life and maintain healthy well-being.
As we said in our publication earlier this year Meeting the home adaptation needs of older people, latest figures show that the impact of poor housing on health is similar to that of smoking or alcohol, and costs the NHS at least £1.4 billion a year, as well as increasing demand for adult social care.
Councils are working hard to provide housing adaptations and mobility aids, which are vital to help keep people safe and independent in their homes and prevent avoidable admissions to hospital and care homes. Every £1 spent on housing adaptations are worth more than £2 in care savings and quality of life gains.
Our ageing population means that more older people (over 65s) are becoming a growing part of our housing market, living in a third of all homes, often in unsuitable conditions for their needs.
Over 90 per cent of older people live in mainstream homes and 80 per cent of the homes we will be living in by 2050 are already built.
This is why it is essential that as a society and as individuals, that we plan for old age, and importantly, how we house older people. We need homes specifically designed for an ageing population.
Despite the undersupply of fully accessible homes, with just 7 per cent of stock meeting the four “visitable” criteria, 72 per cent could be adapted.
Timely adaptations can make a real difference to people’s wellbeing and help them to stay in their own home and community.
Many councils have innovated and put in place personalised interventions to enable people to remain at home for longer, and the LGA continues to share good practice with its membership and lobby government to ensure that home adaptations for older and disabled people is a key part of any national housing policy.
We would like the government to work with councils and housing associations to provide a sustainable funding framework through which to offer the certainty and clarity to invest in the future development of housing for people with a range of needs.
In addition, to help councils ensure a good supply of social housing, government should devolve Right to Buy so councils retain 100 per cent of their receipts to reinvest in new homes, and can set discounts locally.