Park home living: alternative housing to meet the needs of older people

12 February 2021

The homes that people live in as they age can greatly impact the extent to which they can remain independent.

By 2050, it is projected that one in four people in the UK will be aged 65 years and over - an increase from approximately one in five in 2019, and only one in six in 1999. (ONS). The homes that people live in as they age can greatly impact the extent to which they can remain independent.

Meeting the housing needs of older people cannot simply be fulfilled by providing more care homes. Many older people will remain active late into their lives and will not want or need to live in care homes, but to remain independent.

Therefore, there is a much greater requirement for housing models to bridge the gap between large family homes and full care homes. Can park homes help fill this gap in the housing market?

Planning requirements

It is a requirement of Councils, deriving from National Planning Policy and Guidance, to make plans and decisions for a diverse range of housing for older people. Decisions should consider the needs of the active and newly retired for independent living with no support, through minimal support, to assistance from a visiting care worker, as well as those who may need full-time support. No single housing model will meet these varied needs and choice, flexibility and adaptability in the housing market is needed to fill the gap.

Adaptable homes

Evidence produced by the Centre for Ageing Better suggests that the current housing stock is not fit for purpose in respect of providing safe and suitable homes for older people. According to the research, around a third of people aged 50 and over say their home needs adaptation to make it suitable as they get older. This often requires costly retrofitting work, such as stairlifts, ramps, and the relocating of bathrooms.

By comparison, park homes can be manufactured at source to either be fully adapted or fully adaptable, on delivery.

Gap in the market

Avison Young’s own research has demonstrated that only 3% of private homes granted planning permission provide for single floor living in age-restricted accommodation. This compares to the 20% proportion of the population over 65.

Park homes on retirement estates provide one opportunity to quickly address this gap in the market for older people. Currently, more than 250,000 UK residents live in park homes, most of which fall into the ‘older-people’ demographic and this figure is rising.

Park homes are prefabricated, single-storey homes, which meet the legal definition of a caravan and are sited on a privately owned retirement park. Residents are protected with security of tenure by the Mobile Homes Act if the park is registered with a residential caravan site licence.

Park homes provide the opportunity for people approaching or over retirement age to downsize into affordable low-cost single storey living. In addition, these homes can be easily adapted to suit the physical needs of people as they change.

Benefits for residents

Park homes residents tend to have a strong sense of well-being as they reside in a safe environment, within an often close-knit and mutually supportive community, with ancillary facilities and staff on-site. Normally the park will have a park warden to manage the maintenance and security of the site and assist residents with basic needs. Many parks also have their own community halls where residents organise a range of social and leisure activities. Some even have their own shops, pubs, health clubs, and bowling greens.

Benefits for developers

For developers, park homes make excellent retirement home schemes as due to the nature of the legislation they fall under; permission is sought for a change of use of the land to site park home caravans. This means that they only require a small application fee of £462 and are not liable for the Community Infrastructure Levy.

In addition, building regulations do not apply, park layout, road, and utility standards being instead controlled by the environmental health or housing officers through the caravan site licence.

Developing a residential caravan retirement park is, therefore, comparatively straightforward once planning permission has been granted. Avison Young are experts in obtaining permission for park home developments and appropriate site licences.

Benefits for councils

Park homes count towards a council’s housing target and due to offsite construction, can be deliverable in a relatively short timeframe. Park homes also tend to have far lower carbon footprint than the bricks and mortar equivalent, yet they can provide thermally efficient homes for upwards of 60 years; without causing lasting landscape change.

If you are interested in exploring how park home retirement estates could benefit your portfolio, please contact Avison Young’s specialist caravan park team; [email protected]

+44 (0)20 7911 2220