“Mum wants a bungalow” – but will she get one?
- Many older people prefer to live on one level to suit their needs
- Single level living is safer and reduces the risk of falls and critical accidents
- Single level living can reduce illness, social isolation, loneliness and depression
- Single level accommodation is easier to maintain
There are also secondary benefits. It is widely recognised that the lack of bungalows is a key barrier to older households releasing equity and downsizing which frees up under-occupied properties to help meet the younger generation market and affordable housing needs. And, enabling older people to live independently, safe and healthy for as long as possible, reduces pressure and has cost savings for social care and health systems.
Are local planning authorities helping “mum”?
- Inflexible planning policies – minimum density requirements which favour mainstream housing development and apartments, and/or planning obligation requirements (i.e. affordable housing) which make bungalow development financially unviable;
- Local Plan evidence base – studies that pre-date the 2019 definition of older people only assess the housing needs of the over 65s and not people approaching retirement age (i.e. over 55s). They forecast needs for more specialist housing (e.g. sheltered accommodation, extra care and care home bed-spaces) but are often silent on the amount and mix of the types of general housing which is required to meet the needs of older people choosing to live independently and safely in their own home for as long as possible;
- Adapted housing policies – these typically require a percentage of dwellings in mainstream housing schemes to be made suitable for occupation by older people. Some require dwellings to be adapted to lifetime home and/or Part M4(2) building regulation standards, but it remains the case that an adapted two-storey house cannot match the benefits of single-level accommodation provided by a purpose-built bungalow, and will be less appealing to older people;
- Housing mix policies – these require a percentage of bungalows to be provided in mainstream housing schemes for older people. Housebuilders are often only willing (and able) to provide the minimum number of bungalows however, built to minimum size and space standards, and often provided only as part of the affordable housing provision and not for private sale. They are also often provided in small numbers and sometimes spread (‘pepper potted’) in isolated locations. These types of bungalows do not meet the majority of older people’s needs;
- Existing stock – there are also instances when despite having Local Plan policies which require the provision of general needs housing for older people, some local planning authorities resist new bungalow development because they consider they already have sufficient stock. This shows a flawed understanding of older people’s needs and the benefits of bungalows.
- National planning policy – clarification and/or revision to confirm that developments of age-restricted specialist bungalows for older people are exempt from providing affordable housing;
- Flexible local planning policies – recognising that strict application of density and/or planning obligation (i.e. affordable housing) requirements prevent bungalow schemes from being developed and that the benchmark land value for bungalow development is the same as two-storey housing;
- Allocating land – specific site allocations in Local Plans and Neighbourhood Plans for age-restricted specialist bungalows for older people will enable developers to buy land without competition from mainstream housebuilders. These could be standalone or a part of larger allocations and strategic sites.