Skip to main content


Home sweet home? The gap between housing supply and demand for an ageing population

Recent research by the International Longevity Centre (ILC), Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the Foresight Future of an Ageing Population project and the 2016 Homeowners Survey have highlighted the very real crisis in housing. Prices are at an all-time high and as a result increasing numbers of young adults are living with their parents –26% of those aged 20-34 were living with a parent in 2013, the highest level since records began in 1996[1] – reflecting a lack of housing supply. The dearth of available, affordable housing reflects a decline in investment from both the private and public sector. In the former, the ILC revealed that following the recent financial crisis, the numbers of private homes being built annually fell by 50,000 to 150,000 whilst in the public sector, DCLG found that housing stock owned by local authorities dropped by 10% to only 7% between 1996-2014. ILC predict that the gap between the supply and demand for all housing will be a quarter of a million homes in the next four years. DCLG also argues that demand will outstrip supply in the light of population ageing and migration. They estimate that in the next 25 years five million homes will need to be built in England- a further 4,000 a year.


This imbalance between supply and demand can also in part be explained by under occupation of existing housing stock. There are 16 million under-occupied households, half of which have at least two empty bedrooms. The 50-64 age group makes up the largest number of under-occupied households (4.5 million) whilst of the 65-79 age group, this represents 9 in 10, of whom 50% live in houses with at least two excess bedrooms. The ‘ageing in place’ discourse and shift to ‘care in the community’ have made it both the right and duty of older adults to remain in their own homes later in life as a means to promote wellbeing and reduce care costs. Even if the case was made that older adults should move to smaller accommodation and free up their under-occupied homes, there is again a question of supply- this time of appropriate housing. The Homeowners Survey revealed that over the past two years, one in five home owners over the age of 55 had considered moving but had not done so; a lack of suitable housing was argued to be the issue by 23 per cent of these older adults. In terms of their current accommodation, the ILC report indicates that it may not be appropriate for those with care needs as over half of those surveyed over the age of 50 with limitation to Activities of Daily Living lived in homes with no adaptions. Indeed, the DCLG in their English Housing Survey found that those over the age of 85 were the most likely to live in a ‘non-decent home’- 29% of this age group. Older people, it would seem are living in accommodation which is inappropriate and for some not of their choosing due to a lack of alternatives.


And this picture is likely to get worse. ILC estimate that there will be a shortfall in retirement housing or 160,000 homes by 2030 and by 2050, this would more than double to 376,000. The Foresight project highlighted that only 7% of older adults live in specialist accommodation even though this type of housing has been found to improve wellbeing and reduce health care costs as demand far outstrips supply. ‘Extra care housing’ has been presented as a means to meet the care needs of older adults and also free-up existing housing stock, but as a 2008 report by Housing LIN revealed, the housing needs of an ageing population was not a priority for many councils (64% of all local authorities surveyed did not have a housing strategy  specific  to  older  people). They also found an excess of sheltered accommodation places and an undersupply for extra care housing, which though rising they felt could ‘plateau’ before becoming mainstreamed without investment from local authorities. Eight years later, there are around 49,000 units of extra care housing in the UK (of which 42,696 are in England, 2,066 in Wales, 1,098 in Scotland and 64 in Northern Ireland), a steep rise from 25,000 ten years ago. Not quite a plateau but there is still a mountain to climb to meet the ILC’s projections of demand.

[1] ONS. (2014c). Young adults living with parents, 2013, London: ONS. Available at:




About the Author:

Dr Kate Hamblin is a Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing. Kate is currently working on a follow-on project examining self-employment for older workers as well as a further collaboration with CIRCLE on a piece of research commissioned by SENSE (the deaf-blind charity) to explore telecare use by individuals with dual-sensory impairment. She is also engaged in a John Fell Fund project exploring the outcomes of the Museum of Oxford’s reminiscence programme and a study examining the work and retirement aspirations of older self-employed people.


Comments Welcome:

We welcome your comments on this or any of the Institute's blog posts. Please feel free to email comments to be posted on your behalf to or use the Disqus facility linked below.

Opinions of the blogger is their own and not endorsed by the Institute

Comments Welcome: We welcome your comments on this or any of the Institute's blog posts. Please feel free to email comments to be posted on your behalf to or use the Disqus facility linked below.