Opinion: Sheltered housing – ticking time bomb?
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing
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John Paterson, partner, Ark Housing Consultancy
Social landlords have been questioning the sustainability of their sheltered housing stock and services for many years.
The first critical reviews of whether sheltered housing really matched contemporary expectations on accommodation and facilities began around 30 years ago, prompted by declining numbers of households registering on waiting lists and prolonged re-let times. The re-shaping of support services away from resident or dedicated wardens or scheme managers to more community based and needs driven models has also impacted on the appeal of sheltered housing.
Despite these long-standing demand challenges for sheltered housing, it still represents a significant proportion of social housing stock. And for many social landlords, the sustainability of their sheltered stock is still an unanswered question. Often, major investment is still in abeyance because of future uncertainty and the neglect of these assets only adds to demand problems.
So, is sheltered housing a ticking time bomb? Or, given the underlying demographic and housing demand pressures, can we see a sustainable future for this specialised product? If sheltered housing is to attract healthy demand and fulfil its potential, what should the offer look like going forward, both physically and in terms of services?
Ark is commissioned frequently by social landlords looking to answer these questions in their own particular market and operational contexts. The sector as a whole is still wrestling with these questions in the face of the real time bomb; a rapidly ageing population and fast growing national funding bill for appropriate support and care.