Report on the Housing Needs of the over 55s in Devon

Devon’s population is ageing faster than the national average. Population projections issued by the Office of National Statistics in 2012 show that the population of people over 55s in Devon will increase by 23% by 2034. This increase will be larger in rural areas due to the number of retirees who come to the county in later life.

In order to understand the needs and future plans of this group, the Rural Housing Enablers recently produced a report looking into the housing needs of the over 55s in rural Devon, many of whom are living in properties that are not suitable for their changing needs but cannot find suitable accommodation in their own towns and villages to move to. This report was based on 28 housing need surveys undertaken across Devon over the last 3 years.

The report found that the vast majority (85%) of those who answered the housing need surveys own their own home. The other 2 largest tenures were those living in private rented accommodation and those living in social or affordable housing.

31% of the 4,486 households surveyed intend to move house at some point in the future – 17% within 5 years and 14% at a later date. The top reasons for moving were given as the need to be closer to shops, amenities and public transport and the need for a smaller more manageable home with lower running costs. 60% would like to remain in the parish where they live.

It is interesting to note that there was a great discrepancy between those who owned their own home or were in social housing when it came to the wish or need to move. Whereas only 29% of those owning their own home and 28% of those in social housing intend to move, 60% of those in private rented accommodation intend to move. This is explained by the insecurity of private tenancies and the high level of private rents.

Data from the 2011 Census and anecdotal information from rural communities identifies that there are very few smaller 1 and 2 bedroom homes in most rural villages. The majority of rural homes tend to be larger detached or semi-detached properties with 3 or more bedrooms. This leads to older individuals or couples who are living in a large family home not being able to move to somewhere more suitable for them in their own community.

The report recommends that any housing development in a rural parish should take the needs of the over 55s into consideration and recognise that they have specific needs around adaptability and accessibility and form a large percentage of rural populations.

We also recommend that consideration is given during the planning application stage for open market homes with a local connection so that this group can have access to a bungalow or accessible home and can remain in their own community. This will also free up larger homes for families who wish to move to a bigger property.

The full report can be found here