Annex B1 - Housing for older people (category 1 and category 2)

Part of: Housing Association Guide, Development Guide, Design standards

Introduction to draft standards

Due to an ageing population in Northern Ireland and the widely recognised connection between housing and mental and physical health, which COVID-19 has highlighted, there is an growing need for age-friendly, new build housing that is able to meet the needs and aspirations of older people, now and in the future, and allow them to live active, healthy, independent lives for as long as possible.

The design of new housing for older people should seek to take account of a wide range of physical and sensory needs. Two key elements are adequate floor area and accessibility (see Tables 5, 7 & 8) which, in addition to general living space, need to ensure there is sufficient space allowance for future aids and adaptations; to allow care and support for residents at home; and to provide for future or occasional wheelchair use, furniture and storage.

However, as the HAPPI recommendations and other similar guidance have highlighted, there are many other design aspects that can contribute to older people’s health and well-being and which also need to be considered.

Therefore, in addition to space and accessibility, homes need to allow for plentiful daylight, sunlight and fresh air, and provide easy access to attractive and useable private and communal external space. Homes and communal areas need to be designed to encourage social interaction to help combat loneliness and isolation, as well as taking account of aspects such as adaptability, safety, security, energy efficiency, assistive technology and connectivity. Ideally, homes for older people should be convenient to local amenities and transport links, and integrated into their locale to ensure that residents are part of a connected, vibrant and sustainable community.

Draft design guidance

In order to promote a new approach to housing for older people and to encourage more innovative designs and layouts, the Department has produced a set of draft design standards which are aimed at enhancing the quality of housing for active older people. It is intended this guidance will replace the CAT1/CAT2 section in the Housing Association Guide at a later date once the guidance has been tested in practice. The Department (DfC) is fully aware that this new guidance is likely to have cost implications for Associations but without sufficient cost data from actual schemes it has, to date, not been possible to prepare a business case or add the draft standards into the HA Guide in full. In the meantime therefore, the guidance is being inserted into the guide in draft form but remains a working document and should be treated as good practice only. The existing CAT1/2 requirements still apply, and though the new guidance is optional, and while additional grant funding may be available for pilot schemes, Associations are strongly encouraged to adopt some or all of the draft standards where the cost can be contained within the relevant TCI.

Potential pilot schemes

In order to test and refine the draft Guidance further, and to obtain cost data, DfC and NIHE DPG are seeking to partner with Associations to develop exemplar pilot schemes which embody the draft standards to the furthest extent.

Any Association interested in having their scheme considered as a pilot should consult with NIHE DPG at the earliest opportunity. This will give DfC and DPG the chance to review the designs while still at an early stage (generally RIBA Plan of Work Stage 2 ‘Concept Design’) and therefore help ensure the standards can be integrated and tested as fully as possible. Schemes which are developed beyond RIBA Stage 2 may not be acceptable as pilot schemes. Furthermore, Associations should not present schemes for consideration as a pilot which only include a limited number of the proposed design elements. Whilst specific site or planning restrictions may mean it is not feasible to include every proposed standard, schemes which do not offer sufficient learning opportunity may not be suitable as a pilot.

Any design work based on the new standards that is carried out prior to consulting with NIHE DPG is done so at the Association’s own risk. Associations should also note that there may be a limit on the number of pilot schemes that the Department will support in any SHDP year, and that additional funding for more than one DfC initiative on a single scheme (e.g. a ‘Town and City Centre Living’ pilot scheme that is also a ‘HAPPI’ pilot scheme) may not be provided. 

Additional grant funding for pilot schemes may be available, however this will only be for those elements which relate to specific aspects of the draft standards. All other scheme costs will be addressed through the normal scheme approval process. Being accepted as a pilot scheme is conditional on DfC and DPG being able to review preliminary designs and Associations sharing cost information on the relevant aspects of the scheme.


The Department is not formally seeking comments on the draft guidance at this time, however Associations are encouraged to share learning and information on best practice which would help refine the standards, if appropriate.

The draft standards included here are a working document and may be updated without notice.

Table 5: Housing for older people- TCI area/cost bands applicable (draft proposals)

Self-contained housing for older people
TCI area/cost bands applicable
House type Cat 1/Cat 2
single storey/flat (m2)
1 person / 1 bedroom 35-40
2 person / 1 bedroom 50-55
2 person / 2 bedroom* 55-60
3 person / 2 bedroom 65-701


* This housetype to account for no more than 25% of flats/bungalows within a scheme

Cat 1
3-person/2-bedroom bungalow or flat provision will only attract the supplementary multiplier for a common room where more than 10 units for older people are proposed, and these are within a single building or a distinct grouping of dwellings

3-person/2-bedroom bungalow or flat provision will not attract the supplementary multiplier for other associated communal facilities

1Current area band is 60-65 m2

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