Single living and longevity fuel housing demand

Increasing longevity and more people living alone are two major factors driving up housing demand on an unprecedented scale, according to a new report from a UK planning lobby group.

Britain must start responding to a growing housing crisis by building more, and building sustainably, adapting new houses both to the needs of older occupants, more of whom will be living alone, and to the effects climate change, the Town and Country Planning Association said in its Housing the Next Generation Report due to be launched next week.

The lobby group believes that “opposition to house building can be overcome as long as homes are sustainable, well planned and supported by vital infrastructure.”

House-building plans cannot match the projected demand of 240,000 new homes per year, fuelled by people living longer and choosing to live alone as well as rising divorce rates and to a lesser degree immigration, the TCPA says.

The rise in single occupancy households is responsible for a large chunk of this projected growth, according to the report. In the UK 31% of households have a single occupier, but the proportion is growing rapidly to match the higher levels of other European countries. In Germany and Sweden, for example, 37 and 46% of households only have one inhabitant.

People, especially men, living longer is another important factor contributing to the growth in housing demand.

“The worrying implication of this report and its picture of a burgeoning older population is the spectre of rising homelessness and social exclusion, said TCPA chief executive Gideon Amos.

“More than half of older people live with disability and need accessible homes. We must therefore design and build homes that are flexible enough to accommodate an older population as well as respond to the inevitable impacts of climate change, including drought, floods and heat waves.”

“Much as with the looming pensions crisis, we are facing a serious shortfall in future unless we act now to provide more homes for the next generation.”

“We must strive for the highest environmental standards to ensure we are not simply building the slums of the future,” he added.

Goska Romanowicz

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