When the issue of housing is discussed, much is often said about the challenges for younger people to get on the housing ladder. But it is not just ‘generation rent’ that does not enjoy home ownership, and the issue of where older folk should live if they need to rent is a live issue.
Given that for many later life brings increasing mobility challenges and the need for facilities like walk in baths and showers, this creates the risk of many ending up in rented accommodation inadequate for their needs. It is, therefore, a relevant question as to whether new homes built specifically for rent will be suitable for those with mobility concerns.
A company that is likely to be well aware of this is Pegasus, which is a specialist developer of homes for older people and includes in its offerings a range of wellbeing and support services, designed to make later life more comfortable in various ways.
The news that Pegasus is now shifting its focus from owner-occupancy to the build-to-rent sector can be seen in positive terms. It is doing so because research by organisations such as estate agency Knight Frank and others has shown that the 55-65 range and over-65s are the fastest-growing demographics in the private rental sector, so it can help meet this growing demand.
A key question, therefore, is not just whether the real generation rent is much older than previously thought, with many enjoying greater flexibility to relocate as needs change than some homeowners have; it is whether this increasing need will be met by homes with appropriate facilities. That may be so with Pegasus, but not necessarily all build-to-rent developers.
According to projections made by the Office for National Statistics, the proportion of over-65s in England will rise from the 2018 figure of 18.2 per cent of the population to 20.7 per cent in 2028. This places a specific figure on a general trend seen across the developed world.
If this is matched by continued growth in demand for renting by older people, there is a significant chance that many more bathroom conversions will be needed to meet the mobility needs of more of the population, unless the whole build-to-rent sector steps up on a grand scale.