Planning for all – call for evidence for the Older People’s Housing Taskforce

England and Wales

The Older People's Housing Taskforce, a joint initiative of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Department of Health and Social Care, has launched a call for evidence[1] to inform its work on improving housing options and outcomes for older people.

The Older People’s Housing Taskforce

The government-appointed, independent Taskforce aims to examine the provision of greater choice, quality and security of housing for older people (excluding care homes), looking to increase and improve such supply and explore ways to unblock any current challenges to this objective.

It will provide its recommendations to ministers in 2024 in relation to the appropriate level of older people’s housing, the enablers and barriers to growth of supply, and options to increase the range of choice and specialist housing available to older people.

Call for Evidence

The call for evidence is aimed at organisations, as opposed to individual members of the public, and hopes to enable the Taskforce to develop a broad understanding of respondents’ priorities. It runs until 18 September 2023, and the evidence gathered will be used to form the deliberations, and eventual recommendations, of the Taskforce.

It covers the following three areas:

  1. People: what people want, what they prefer, what concerns they might have about their housing (now or in the future), and how these answers might differ on the basis of financial means, gender, race, religion etc.
  2. Products: what ‘good’ older people’s housing looks like and how we can make it more widely available (particularly for people of lower or middle income), including the type of housing, design quality, and fabric of the home.
  3. Places: how to bring together the relevant stakeholders in local systems to make change happen at local level, including opening up investment to increase the volume and diversity of housing options and consideration of wider market conditions that impact investment on housing (including planning rules and local factors).

Prioritising Older People’s Housing

Our population is an ageing one, with currently over 12.4 million people in Great Britain over the age of 65 (comprising 18% of the population, projected to rise to 26% by 2041). We are also in a housing crisis; this is not just limited to rising mortgage costs and lack of affordable options for first-time buyers, but also a lack of suitable, safe and healthy places for us to grow old in. As we age, what we need from where we live also changes and adapts, whether that is a need to downsize, a greater desire for community living, or increased support from nurses.

These changing needs aren’t all simultaneously heralded in the moment we turn 65 – rather, they are incremental and different for everyone. ‘Older people’ are not a single entity with identical housing requirements. Whilst some will want to downsize, others may prioritise having space for guests and family members to visit and stay; some will prioritise independence, a sense of community and easy access to shops and neighbourhood amenities, and others will need a greater level of care and support. Maintaining a meaningful dialogue with those that the system is aiming to cater for is key to ensure that we encourage and simplify the provision of housing options that truly meet these diverse needs. 

Not only will this mean that older people have the choice of accommodation which suits their adapting requirements, is affordable, helps them to live independently for longer and feel more connected to their communities, but investing in such housing will also have trickle down benefit into other key sectors.

It will reduce costs to the social care and health systems (with research[2] estimating savings to the state of approximately £83,000 person). It will help maximise and prolong older people’s economic and social contribution to their communities. It will free up homes for families wishing to upsize, allowing more first-time buyers to get on to the housing ladder. And it will also contribute to the UK’s net zero ambitions, by re-purposing existing empty buildings and other brownfield sites as an integral part of a carbon-reduced future (with the simultaneous benefit of revitalising communities and town centres).

The Role of Planning

The planning system plays a key role in supporting and incentivising the building of older people’s housing, whether in the form of age-restricted market housing, retirement living or extra-care housing, as demonstrated in the RTPI’s Housing for Older People practice advice[3] published at the end of last year.

How the planning system could change to incentivise such housing has been the topic of much discussion, with recommendations including the following:

  • Use class classification: national guidance should be published that clarifies exactly what would constitute a C2 use class development. There is currently difficulty in classifying whether developments that combine retirement living with care fall into either a C2 use class (residential institutions) or a C3 use class (dwelling houses).
  • Community Infrastructure Levy and affordable housing provision: The difficulty in classifying the use class of a development also creates differing positions at local level as to whether CIL should be paid, or affordable housing provided. Although recent case law has extended the application of some local affordable housing policies to C2 housing, this isn’t the case across the board. LPAs will therefore often argue in the first instance that a development falls within C3 classification in order to secure affordable housing. A similar issue arises when determining whether a CIL exemption applies under a particular charging schedule. These disagreements can often lead to a protracted planning process, in some instances leading to refusals and appeals. National guidance should be published on how older person’s housing is considered within CIL charging schedules to provide clarity over whether exemptions apply, and on how the provision of affordable housing is considered for different types of development.
  • Local plan provision: LPAs should be required to have a specific requirement for older person’s housing and allocate specific site for this form of housing, including the tenure required, in their local plans, and be held more accountable for the delivery of such.

The call for evidence includes how the wider market conditions, including the planning process, can be improved to better ensure the needs of our population are met, and so such recommendations may well be included in the Taskforce’s report to ministers next year. What is evident is that there must be effective collaboration between all stakeholders to provide housing that truly meets our needs, whilst simultaneously help meet the country’s net zero ambitions, tackle the housing crisis and address the health and wellbeing of our communities.

[1] Older People's Housing Taskforce - call for evidence - GOV.UK (

[2] Research by the Strategic Society

[3] housing-for-older-people.pdf (