A new coalition of campaigning organisations and housing associations are demanding action to ensure all new homes are accessible and adaptable
November saw the launch of a new coalition of high-profile housing organisations calling for action to defuse a “timebomb” in the provision of accessible housing for the UK’s ageing population and people with disabilities.
HoME (Housing Made for Everyone) is predicting a “dangerous shortage” of suitable homes in the future, with only one new accessible home to be built for every 15 people over the age of 65 by 2030.
In an open letter issued ahead of the General Election, HoME said housing is critical to people’s health and wellbeing, yet only 7% of homes in England are currently accessible, meaning 93% lack even the most basic features to make them “visitable” by disabled people.
A lack of suitable housing will affect nearly everyone, it added. The number of households headed by someone over 65 will make up 88% of the total over the next 25 years and the design of homes will be critical to how society deals with this shifting age profile.
Nevertheless, analysis of 322 Local Plans in England by Habinteg Housing found that the planned development of accessible housing is set to fall short of previous official predictions. Less than a quarter (23%) of new homes outside London are set to meet any optional access standards. Just 1% are set to be fully wheelchair accessible.
HoME warned that the lack of accessible housing provision will increase pressure on health and social services, as more and more people struggle in homes that are “not fit for purpose”.
Poor housing for over-55s already costs the NHS £624m a year, according to research by the BRE, with costs dominated by excess cold hazards and those associated with falls.
Without government action, the open letter warned, with the costs forecast to reach £1bn per year by 2041.
Building the right homes
With housebuilding being ramped up, HoME called for better standards in office-to-residential conversions and warned that accelerated planning or extending permitted development rights could result in yet more poor quality housing.
It is calling for accessible, adaptable design standards set out in Building Regulations Vol 1, M4, Category 2, to be made a mandatory baseline for all new homes and, where need can be demonstrated, the government should make it easier for M4 Category 3 (wheelchair user dwellings) to be introduced to relevant planning policies.
This, HoME said, will create a “level policy playing field” across the country and certainty for developers, enabling them to build homes that will meet the future needs of an ageing population.
HoME’s seven-step charter is also calling for:
- Central government to collate and make publicly available data from every planning authority on the number of new homes built to each of the categories set out in Approved Document M4 Vol 1 (access to and use of buildings), alongside sufficiently resourcing planning authorities to effectively monitor this.
- Local authorities to be “bold and confident” in their planning policies for accessible housing, using MHCLG guidance and best practice approaches to evidencing need.
- Homes England, in line with action already taken by the Greater London Authority, to give priority to current development bids for homes that meet M4 Category 2 standards. These should also include a number of Category 3 wheelchair accessible properties. If necessary, the additional costs should be recognised in the value for money assessment and grant awarded for affordable housing.
- Local authorities to review and keep up-to-date with the accessibility of housing in their area in preparation for an accessible housing database that will make finding the right home easier for people with specific requirements.
- Estate agents and their membership body ARLA to work with the government and others to create and deliver standard accessibility ratings, similar to the environmental rating, that is displayed for every home sold.
- The housebuilding industry should join the call for legislative change for higher accessibility standards and proactively seek out and disseminate good practice among their members.
Anna Dixon, chief executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, which co-chairs the coalition, said: “Too many people are today living in homes that limit their independence, as we face a dangerous shortage of homes that are accessible and adaptable. While it’s not inevitable, the likelihood is that most of us will experience disability or difficulties with activities of daily living at some point in our later life. And with more of us living for longer, this dire lack of accessible homes represents a ticking timebomb.
“Urgent action is needed to ensure we are building homes fit for the future, so that more of us are able to stay in our homes for longer and remain safe and independent.
“As we build the homes of tomorrow, it’s crucial that every brick laid today is part of the solution. Central government, local authorities and developers all have a role to play in ensuring that the homes of tomorrow are safe, well-designed and flexible.”
Sheron Carter, chief executive of Habinteg, which also co-chairs the coalition, added: “Recent research by Habinteg reveals that most people in Britain are not able to welcome a wheelchair user into their home due to poor access. This is the limiting reality of our current housing stock. So with increasing rates of disability and an ageing population, it’s critical that new homes are built to standards that provide greater accessibility and adaptability. Unless we do this, we’ll be running into a whole new type of housing crisis in the years to come.
“We’re heartened to see so many high-profile organisations joining forces to press for change on such a crucial issue. We can and should be building homes to be inclusive of all.”
|The HoME coalition is:|
Tel: 0843 504 4560