New research by David Mullins and Jon Stevens for the Housing and Communities Research Group provides an inspiring example of how retirement housing providers can adapt to the aspirations of a new generation of consumers.
Their report ‘Square Pegs and Round Holes’ is a baseline study of a path-breaking management transfer of homes to control by Resident Directors.
"Nowadays retired people are more willing to think for themselves and will make more demands on their landlords". (Judy, Ashfields, Resident Director)
In 2015 residents at Ashfields, a small leasehold retirement bungalow estate in Shropshire took the initiative to form a Resident Management Company to take over the management of their homes and appointed a local managing agent.
"We didn't have any examples to follow but we made it work with some help from local professionals; we learned a lot including how high the expectations of residents can be" (Harry, Resident Director)
As the baseline evaluation of the transfer, which was completed in January 2016 shows, the results so far have been very beneficial for the residents:
"Since April 2016 households have been paying £30 per month less than last year. Our new window cleaner, a local person is doing an excellent job, and responds instantly to any complaints. Many residents have now had free central heating system installed and the majority are delighted with it and finding it much cheaper to run. The directors are still finding their way and facing new challenges such as producing a booklet for prospective purchasers and ensuring that H21 deal properly with leases." (Judy, Resident Director)
The freeholder, Housing and Care 21, who built the bungalows in the 1980s and provided management services until January 2016 has also been very pleased with the decision it took to support a management transfer. James McCarthy, Director of Retirement Housing, Housing and Care 21 commented:
“The arrangement at Ashfields demonstrates just how positive handing over control to residents can be”.
“Residents at Ashfields were not happy with elements of the service we were providing and we thought that the best approach was to hand responsibility over to a management company set up by the residents. We were keen to support this method, even though residents of bungalows do not have a “Right To Manage” their property.”
The research also highlights the wider application of devolved management for other types of retirement housing; as Retirement Housing Director, Richard McCarthy recognises:
“Whilst the Ashfields arrangement is not something that we intend to repeat everywhere, we are consulting with all residents to introduce a “choice” framework at each housing scheme. This will establish which decisions can be appropriately delegated to residents at each court and which need to be retained by us as the landlord.”
Further fresh thinking on promoting resident choice in retirement housing and on various forms of resident owned and managed housing for older people can be found in two recent reports by Jon Stevens for the Housing Learning and Improvement Network.
Jon Stevens (2016) 'Growing Older Together: An Overview of Collaborative Forms of Housing for Older People'.
Jon Stevens (2013) 'Growing Older Together: The Case for Housing That Is Shaped and Controlled by Older People'