April 24, 2024

APPG July 11: Retirement fees whether ground rents or event fees need to be for designated services not open-ended profits, says AgeUK

And grounds cannot be set to zero but maintained in the retirement sector

By Joe Oldman, AgeUK

Age UK strongly supports extending the range of housing options available for older people – so we want to see a significant expansion in good quality retirement schemes and villages.

We also recognise and appreciate the efforts of the retirement housing sector to improve and reform the offer they make to older people. Even though we have areas of disagreement about the best way to do that.

We’ve always argued that part of the future success of the retirement leasehold sector requires older people to have trust and confidence in retirement housing providers – with a fairer balance of power between leaseholders and landlords.

Last week I attended the ARCO conference which I found very reassuring because they accepted the case for appropriate regulation and stronger consumer protection to provide a better service and to earn the trust and confidence of older people.

A basic objective for Age UK is to ensure that older people are protected and have a high degree of control over their housing – with recognition that this is really important to their health, happiness and wellbeing.

It seems very likely that future generations of older residents will demand more control over their home environment and how housing and care support is delivered.

That is why we support reform of Right to Manage and the promotion of commonhold tenure to extend the choices available to older people.

We also support the basic principles of full transparency and that any fee or charge is linked to a specific service or benefit for the resident.

We’re sympathetic to the retirement housing providers having a workable business model – but we would also like to see the end of ground rent because it doesn’t follow these basic principles.

For Age UK it would also be completely unacceptable to have a situation where ground rent was generally abolished but was retained for older people living in retirement housing schemes.

We’re pleased the Government is taking forward reforms which we hope will eliminate or at least dramatically reduce the exploitation of vulnerable older leaseholders – as we have seen with a minority of providers – who have damaged the reputation of the retirement housing sector as a whole and this needs to be addressed.

We strongly agree with one of the main conclusions of the recent CLG select committee on older people’s housing – that offering older people independent and accurate advice on housing options is vitally important. Making the right housing choices is often intertwined with complex decision about personal finance, care and housing support.

There are many examples of older people who find themselves trapped in the wrong kind of housing which they then find unaffordable or difficult to sell. Housing advice plays a key role in helping older people to avoid that situation and deserves greater consideration.

Finally, we think that reform of retirement housing must be part of a national strategy on older people’s housing linked to health and social care reform and this need to be reflected in planning guidance and stronger measures to deliver accessible and affordable housing options across both the social and private sectors.