The Scottish Housing with Care Taskforce, a group established in Autumn 2021, has published its final report and put forward possible solutions to the legal, planning and social care issues which are holding back development of the senior living sector.

The Taskforce, chaired by Sovereign Property Partnership and backed by the industry sector body ARCO, has convened developers, operators, investors, lawyers, planning specialists, and MSPs with the aim of filling the policy void for integrated retirement communities and to stimulate the supply of housing for older people in Scotland. Brodies is one of four law firms represented on the Taskforce.

Housing with care – or senior housing - is one of a number of options available for older people and should fill the gap between private housing and a care home context. However, it is a sector which has struggled over the years to achieve a meaningful foothold. Currently there are around 4000 housing-with-care units in Scotland and assuming demand of 5% in the over 65s population (the level found in other developed nations) the current supply gap stands at nearly 50,000 units.

In the context of supply and demand the construction of senior housing should be a "no brainer". For a myriad of reasons the product is both necessary and desirable. But there are complex issues to be worked through, such as financial modelling, investment analysis, legal and planning considerations, and all against the backdrop of a competitive market for suitable sites. If it was easy, arguably every housebuilder could be including an element of senior housing in its developments to help meet the need.

In England long leases are often used to give operators the necessary control over housing-with-care units but this is not currently possible under Scots law. One of the possible solutions investigated by the Taskforce is offering a shared ownership tenure model to manage the risks, responsibilities and interests of the provider and sharing owner(s).

Planning issues also make it difficult for housing-with-care to be built in Scotland, with confusion over use classes and currently no target numbers for the delivery of senior housing in NPF4. Proposals from the Taskforce include the introduction of a specific planning use class to allow councils to designate sites for age-related housing and/or section 75 reliefs to allow housing-with-care operators to compete with mainstream housebuilders on land values.

Housing-with-care can help to reduce the demands on the social care system by allowing people to live independently in an environment where it is possible to progressively increase the levels of care as their needs change over time. The Taskforce suggests that developments are more likely to be successful when local health and social care demands are considered at the initial planning and delivery stages, which will require more partnership working between the public and private sector.

The Scottish Housing with Care Taskforce recommendations in full can be accessed here.