Scotland ‘failing to meet housing needs’ of older and disabled people

Urgent action is required to reverse the shortage of housing for older and disabled people as Scotland struggles to meet the needs of a rapidly ageing population, according to a new alliance of charities and other organisations.

Age Scotland, the Scottish Older People’s Assembly, Castle Rock Edinvar, and McCarthy and Stone have joined forces to launch the Older People’s Housing Coalition to put older and disabled people’s housing needs at the centre of the planning system.

The coalition is urging the Scottish Government to make housing for older people and those with disabilities a specific priority in its Planning Bill, with clear national and local targets similar to those for affordable housing. Planning authorities should be obliged to identify appropriate sites close to local shops, GPs, services, and transport links.

It is also pushing for “age friendly design” to be incorporated into the planning process, with elements including accessibility, energy efficiency, adaptability, and shared facilities.

Within a generation, almost a third of all Scots will be aged over 60, increasing to almost 1.8 million by 2039. Those aged over 75 will have nearly doubled from 0.43 million to 0.8 million.

Last week it was revealed that research commissioned by the government found that the next generation of affordable homes will be too small for many disabled people who rely on wheelchairs or other mobility aids as the standards being followed do not allow sufficient floor space for wheelchairs.

The Scottish Parliament’s local government and communities committee is currently considering evidence on the Planning (Scotland) Bill.

It was revealed last week that research commissioned by the government found that the next generation of affordable homes will be too small for many disabled people who rely on wheelchairs or other mobility aids as the standards being followed do not allow sufficient floor space.

Jim Eadie from Age Scotland, a spokesperson for the coalition, said: “Scotland is not building enough housing to meet the needs of its rapidly ageing population. There simply aren’t enough homes where older and disabled people want to live, and this is putting increasing pressure on health and social care budgets.

“We urgently need to improve the mix of housing across all tenures to rent and buy, so we can meet the diverse needs of Scotland’s older and disabled people.

“The Planning Bill will be a missed opportunity unless we prioritise an obligation on planning authorities to identify appropriate sites, national and local targets for their delivery, and a focus on the supply of flexible housing to support different use at different ages.

“Over the coming months, we will be making the case to policy and decision makers about the type of change that can put the needs of older and disabled people at the heart of planning policy.

“We welcome the fact that older people’s housing is now recognised as a specific need within the revised 2014 Scottish Planning Policy. But we need a step change in our approach to housebuilding to future-proof provision and reflect the differing requirements of different age groups.

“A reformed planning system can play a big role in promoting the range of housing that is required and sought by our ageing population.”