Last year the housing minister, Brandon Lewis, suggested that more bungalows should be built for the elderly in order to free up bigger homes for families during this unprecedented housing shortage in Britain. “We must learn to love the 'quintessentially British' bungalow again if we want to solve the housing crisis”, he said. A bungalow ‘trend’ swept through the US, Canada, South Africa, Australia and India – where the bungalow originated – during the first quarter of the 20th century, before sprouting up across the UK after WW2.
Certain sections of society have traditionally looked down on the humble bungalow; in the public’s mind they’re perceived as nothing more than a single-storey home for people unable to afford double storeys. However, recent surveys tell a different tale. Research by Alliance and Leicester shows that a third of the population would love to live in a bungalow. Around 35 per cent of respondents in Wales described the bungalow as their dream home, and 47 per cent of 16 - 19-year-olds liked the idea of a single storey dwelling.
According to estate agents, demand for bungalows has been consistently high, but needs are changing from the well-known standard model to high-spec bungalows. These changing tastes prompted an experiment at Upper Heyford, where there is a 1,200-acre village site, including 260 bungalows. Some of the bungalows are rented out privately and used for social housing. Two of the 260 have been transformed showcasing various high-spec features.
For all their popularity, only 2% of English homes are bungalows and only 300 were built in 2009. Changing focus and marketing them for retirees would liberate an older generation from being forced into retirement homes or flats, giving them more options and greater independence well into old age. This is especially important when you consider that by 2021, the number of households aged 65 years and over is expected hit 1.2 million. That is more than half the total number of estimated households in the UK in 2021. Unfortunately, construction of bungalows is not a priority as planning rules dictate that developers need to build at least 30 dwellings per hectare, which means no space is allocated for standalone properties, specifically bungalows.
However, it looks as though the tide might be turning, as the Policy Exchange report stated: “It makes no sense to prevent construction of bungalows if we are interested in increasing the housing supply and a more efficient use of the existing housing stock.”
Where will the retirement property debate go, will bungalows win out in the end, or will the elderly decide that they actually prefer apartment life?
Watch this space.