Making the case for specialist homes for older people

20 February 2024

As our population ages, England is facing an acute shortage of homes for older people. Research shows that by 2035, the number of people over the age of 60 in England will reach 29% of the entire population.  

If we don’t act to develop more homes for older people, this will place an unsustainable strain on both the housing market and on health services, whilst leaving older people without suitable homes.  

The Older Person’s Housing Group are a cross-organisational group from social housing providers across the country that are dedicated to working together to break down barriers to developing these much needed homes. 

The group has published a resource to explain the need for specialist housing for older people, outline the barriers to development and make their asks of the government as we head towards a general election. The resource also features case studies from three housing associations, who explain some of the challenges they’ve faced whilst developing homes for older people.  

Why do we need more specialist homes for older people? 

Research shows to meet the projected demand, we need to build to build 38,000 new homes for rent for older people per year. Of this, 21,000 should be social rented housing to take older, low-income renters out of the private rented sector. Nearly a third should be extra care or sheltered accommodation, to make sure everyone has a home that is tailored to them.  

If we don’t meet demand, the number of private renters 65 years and above is projected to double by 2046, reaching 12% of all households of this age. By 2060, the benefit bill for older people could reach £16bn on today’s trends, compared to only £6bn today. 

By developing more homes, we can give people a choice as they age. A recent study showed that four million people over the age of 55 would like to move home, but only around 8% have done so in the last three years. 


We need 38,000 new homes for rent for older people to be built per year. Of this, 21,000 should be social rented housing.


Across England, the cost to the NHS of unsuitable housing is estimated to be £1.4bn.

What are the social and economic benefits of specialist older person’s housing? 

Specialist homes for older people would also have huge economic and social benefits. Housing with integrated care and support reduces the likelihood that residents will need to go into hospital or residential care. This means less stress on health services.  

Across England, the cost to the NHS of unsuitable housing is estimated to be £1.4bn. Of this, around £513m is spent on first year treatment for those aged 55 and over who occupy the poorest quality dwellings. If every one of these people were housed in appropriate specialist housing, annual savings of around £3,000 per person could be made for the public purse. 

What are the main barriers to building more homes for older people? 

  1. Planning complexity.
  2. The lack of sufficient data and coordination between local authorities. 
  3. Low grant rates and a lack of long-term assurances from commissioners. 
  4. Prohibitive land and build costs.

What is the Older Person’s Housing Group calling for?  

To address the pressing need for specialist housing for older people, we’re asking the government to work towards the following:  

  1. The government should commit to a long-term plan for housing, with a clear strategy for developing homes for an ageing population.  
  2. As part of a long-term plan, the government should introduce a target for housing for older people that is monitored and sits underneath an overall target.  
  3. There needs to be sufficient funding to support land and build costs and consideration for ring-fenced funding for older people’s housing.  
  4. Funding needs to be comprehensive, flexible and sustained with long-term assurances for revenue as well as capital funding.  
  5. The government should publish clear guidance to support planning for housing for older people. 

Who to speak to

Mary Raymer, External Affairs Manager