Making the Case for Community Led Retirement Housing

Community First in Herefordshire and Worcestershire are delighted to be supporting a community led retirement housing initiative in Clifton Upon Teme.  

“The social value case for retirement housing is overwhelming. If one considers the cost savings to health and care services, the wider benefits to loneliness rates and social networks built, the assets released to tackle pensioner poverty, and the number of family homes that can be freed up (and housing chain moves created) when older people can move to more appropriate property – it is clear that, as we argued in The Top of the Ladder, retirement housing has the same social value as affordable housing.”

Unlocking the Housing Market, (Demos 2017)

Jon and Ros, from Clifton-upon-Teme, tell us about the journey so far:

"We moved into Clifton upon Teme in West Worcestershire nearly 6 years ago and were recruited almost immediately into the village Friendship Club for senior citizens. Over the next few months we became aware that there is a significant elderly population in the village. Because of the Friendship Club and the very nature of the village there is a very good network of assistance and support among this group. Predictably, the general response to this is that people do not want to leave their community. This results in people staying put in their houses even beyond the point where things like stairs, fires, loneliness, etc. render them inappropriate or, in many cases, dangerous. We have had a number of people who, due to falls or other mishaps have been injured and hospitalised. This led us to wonder whether it would be possible to provide, here in Clifton, some purpose-built apartment accommodation which would allow people to live independent lives but with the knowledge that other people are close at hand. In discussing this with fellow villagers it was clear there was general support but concern that this should be a community led project so that it serves locals both in terms of qualification for residency and affordability through local, not for profit, management.

We read about and then visited a housing scheme in the Esk Valley in Yorkshire. There we learned that a group of enterprising parishioners had come together and achieved precisely this kind of facility. We know that, traditionally, the policy of County Councils has been to sanction such accommodation in mainly urban areas and we well understand why this is so. However, as explained above, many people don't want to ship off to Worcester, Malvern, etc. at the end of their lives and, as Esk Valley has shown, it is possible and beneficial to make some provision in rural areas.

We unexpectedly had the opportunity to propose this idea when we were invited to the launch of our county's Integrated Care for Older People Strategy (ICOPE). We joined a discussion group about later life housing and expressed our thoughts . We were unaware that in that same meeting was the Director of Communities and Housing of MHDC, Stephen Gabriel. This resulted in a meeting at the Lion coffee morning, attended by over 30 people, at which the idea was explained and gained considerable support.

Since then we have formed a small steering group and have had a full MHDC housing needs survey in the village which revealed that 30 people currently resident would be interested in using such accommodation. In addition to our District Council connection we have kept in contact by reporting regularly to our own Parish Council. We have also appraised Councillor, Caroline Palethorpe and MP Harriett Baldwin of our thoughts as a result of which we received a letter from the Chief Executive explaining County Council policy.

We are looking forward to advice and support from the Worcestershire Community Led Housing Hub as we are acutely aware that for this project to get off the ground we shall need a great deal of time, work and money not to mention good luck. However, we push this boat out with the conviction that we would rather sail and sink than stay in dry dock.

As well as all the recommendations in the Happi reports we recently came across the 2017 Demos report, Unlocking the Housing Market, which includes the following paragraph. We feel this is particularly significant as if a development such as we are proposing were treated as affordable housing it would make the acquisition of a site much more achievable.

“The social value case for retirement housing is overwhelming. If one considers the cost savings to health and care services, the wider benefits to loneliness rates and social networks built, the assets released to tackle pensioner poverty, and the number of family homes that can be freed up (and housing chain moves created) when older people can move to more appropriate property – it is clear that, as we argued in The Top of the Ladder, retirement housing has the same social value as affordable housing.”


To date the support from the Worcestershire Community Led Housing Hub has been provided by Carl Taylor at Redditch Co-operative Homes who has met with the group to clarify the type of scheme envisaged, Zoom meetings with Nick Comley,  Community Led Homes  Advisor at Community First and Laura Marshall, Community Participation Officer at Wychavon and Malvern District Councils who have supported the group development, exception site and land searches.  Planned support is to identify potential sites, negotiate options and heads of terms, identify a construction partner or Registered Provider developer and to create a suitable legal entity to manage the project development and potential long term housing management services.