By Local Democracy Reporter
NEW homes could be designed to be suitable for older people and more specialist properties could be built under an ambitious new strategy.
It has been produced as part of an annual public health review after the council found housing to be a key factor in maintaining health.
Their goal is to have all new homes built using a series of optional building regulations, known as Housing our Ageing Population Panel for Innovation (HAPPI).
This would mean they are designed to be ‘care ready’ so that technologies can be installed, have better energy efficiency, improved ventilation and larger internal spaces that can have flexible use.
The strategy states: “Not everyone can or would wish to live in a specialist home. Therefore new mainstream housing needs to be built in a way that ensures that it is appropriate across the life to enable healthy ageing.
“This requires property be designed to enable flexibility, reducing the need for major adaptions which often require costly building work and are difficult to retro-fit in poorly designed homes.”
The guidelines have already been used for the development of Bruyns Court in South Ockendon and are expected to allow older people to stay in their homes for longer.
The strategy also recommends ensuring that more specialist housing and “age friendly” features are incorporated into the council’s Local Plan.
It was discussed at the council’s housing scrutiny committee on December 18 and members praised the ideas but questions were raised about its feasibility.
The committee’s vice chair, Independent Councillor Luke Spillman, said: “Realistically we don’t have the money we need to make any of this a reality.”
Labour Councillor Jane Pothecary said she was “concerned about the balance between the private sector and council” because the private sector would need to be persuaded to go along with additional building regulations.
A council officer told the committee: “This is our vision and there would be a lot of follow on work to know what that actually looks like on the ground.”
The relationship between housing and health
Nationally the population is living longer and within Thurrock the over 65 population was estimated to be 23,700 in 2017.
This is projected to grow by five percent by 2020, and up to 46 percent by 2035. As a result, it is anticipated that there will be a significant increase in the number of older people requiring health and social care services.
Poor housing can impact health in several ways including causing cold-related illnesses which can result in death, infections due to poor indoor air quality, injury from falls and mental health problems as a result of isolation.
Council data shows that every fall in a home can cost the NHS between £67 and £59,246. It estimates that up to £600million of treatment costs could be saved across the country each year if housing hazards are removed or significantly reduced.
Unsuitable homes can also result in older people discharged from hospital having to be readmitted, placing a strain on health services.
Summary of the housing vision
All new developments would be “age-friendly” in their design including ensuring access to public transport, green space, community, employment and volunteering opportunities.
All new housing, including mainstream housing, would be built according to HAPPI principles.
Older people wishing to continue living in existing their homes would be supported to do so through the use of adaptions and remote care where possible.
Local people would be be involved in the design of new specialised housing.