New London Architecture

London faces intergenerational housing shortfall

Thursday 05 November 2020

David Taylor

Editor, NLQ and New London Weekly

London is in urgent need of intergenerational housing to cope with an ageing population, the planning system needs an overhaul to accommodate that, but new models and investors are emerging which may help to plug the gap.

Those were some of the key thoughts arising from ‘Under one roof: the rise of intergenerational housing’ an NLA webinar on housing issues held last week.

Simon Hodson, head of UK Healthcare at JLL, said that Covid had put our attitude to how we age into sharp relief, especially given the UK’s ageing population, with more people over 65 than under 5 at the moment. The Humanitas experimental project in Deventer in the Netherlands – in which students live in a scheme with the elderly in exchange for 30 hours of their free time per month and preparing and serving weekday meals – was an interesting model, said Hodson, but provision here is in a precarious position. ‘For those in later life who need the highest level of care and assistance, we have a significant under provision in the UK’, he said. 

Despite some cultural challenges, multi-generational housing and co-living projects were ‘creeping into the narrative’, but, said Hodson, the planning system does not ‘get into the granular’ at a local level and needs a ‘significant overhaul at national level’. There is a shortage of age-exclusive communities presenting opportunities for investors driven by environmental and social governance goals and yet there is certainly money in the sector, with over 75% of all housing equity owned by the over 50s – the equivalent of something like £1.7 trillion. ‘We have a rapidly changing ageing population which is completely underserved by modern housing delivery’, Hodson added, pointing to a big opportunity around scale, ‘because this whole challenge revolves around the strength of the community’.

From Simon Hodson's presentation © Jones Lang LaSalle
PRP senior partner Brendan Kilpatrick said that a couple of ‘crises’ were coming up in very short measure in housing, with Grenfell being the first and likely to affect fire safety and how we procure and construct buildings in the deal. But the pandemic is also significantly affecting how designers must take on board how we will live. Different regions and countries in the world embrace multi-generational living better than we do in the UK, Kilpatrick said, with places like India and Japan viewing extended families living together in a different way.

PRP took part in the Chobham Manor competition to create housing on the Olympic Park, winning with a masterplan implemented when the Olympics finished. The scheme’s phase three is just completing, with five privately delivered multigenerational dwellings out of a total of 850; connected, flexible homes for extended families who want to live together while retaining a degree of mutual independence. ‘But there probably could have been 25 or more given for the demand for this particular typology’, said Kilpatrick. ‘the reason they are in such big demand is because there are so few of them. No-one’s building these in the UK’.

Multigenerational House © PRP

IBI Group Studio Associate Director Maarit Heinonen-Smith presented another potential solution to fill this hole in the market – Health House. This is a collaborative research project, she said, to look at exactly these sort of problems – ‘how do you design housing that is suitable for people at any age? How can you make it truly adaptable and accessible? The project is based on three ages of life; the age of discovery, of commitment and of purpose, and of dependence, with one modular scheme that is brought to site by lorry and is adaptable to suit all, through each stage. It is in talks with a developer to build a prototype.

Nnenna Urum-Eke, Head of Development, LB Enfield, said that issues of social isolation and depending on neighbours and communities for support had prompted the authority to run a competition to highlight design innovation in this area. Competition winner and Enfield based practice Adrian Hill Architects triumphed with ‘Two Front Doors’ for flexible separatable homes, while other entrants, said Urum-Eke, concentrated on encouraging social inclusion and neighbourliness. Some of the conclusions will be published in two weeks’ time to share learning and the local authority is also working to find a site on which to build the project.

Watch the webinar recording here. For members only. 

David Taylor

Editor, NLQ and New London Weekly



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