By Jane Barker Managing Director, Liberty Retirement Living
Britain's population is ageing fast but the housing market has responded at a snail's pace. According to Knight Frank's 2016 residential research only 3% of new housing under construction or currently in the pipeline in the UK is for the elderly, and around 25% of over 55s want to move into some sort of retirement housing in the future.
This significant lack of suitable retirement accommodation coupled with changing demographics will only exacerbate the lack of supply.
To help overcome this issue and meet the needs of our older generation, Places for People is developing a portfolio of specialist retirement businesses.
This strategy builds on our 50-year track record of providing high-quality housing and support services, including homes for the over-55s and those requiring care. As well as providing supported housing schemes, we provide personalised care and support to more than 7,000 customers across the UK through Places for People Living+ and Places for People Scotland Care and Support.
In 2014, we significantly increased our presence in the retirement sector, acquiring Girlings, the UK's leading retirement rental business. With more than 2,600 tenants in hundreds of developments across the UK, Girlings ensures we meet the demand for high-quality rental homes as customers seek greater choice and flexibility.
Building on this expertise, we created Places for People Retirement. Combining our market rent and sale activity in the retirement market, this is enabling us to deliver a comprehensive offer, including design, development, sales, management and care services.
Actively seeking new investment and development opportunities, Places for People Retirement is working across the Group and looking at all areas of the market, including accommodation, services, care and technology-driven innovation.
Our launch of Liberty Retirement Living this month, in partnership with Octopus Healthcare, is another major development in our retirement strategy. Recognising that the retired population spans several generations, this new business is targeting those looking to enjoy an active retirement in modern surroundings.
Setting new standards, our focus will be on helping residents to keep their independence in homes that are easy to manage using the latest technology. All developments will be designed with a village feel including on-site restaurants, gyms and leisure facilities - and provide high-quality bespoke care and support for those who require it.
Over the next five years, Liberty is aiming to create25 retirement villages comprising of around 2,700 homes. In the first year alone, seven villages are planned delivering 700 homes. These plans may sound ambitious, but this is the level of investment required to meet the growing need for quality retirement properties.
With a holistic retirement strategy comprising businesses which are targeted at meeting the different and changing needs of this market, we are aiming to become a sector leader. Building on more than 50 years' property management and development experience, we can now offer a vast range of retirement options, providing aspirational, mixed-tenure homes and most importantly, increasing the choice and quality available to the older generations.