Time to tackle ‘timebomb’ in lack of suitable housing

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Ten organisations from across the housing and charity sectors have warned of a crisis in the provision of suitable housing for older and disabled people as they launch a new coalition to campaign for accessible homes

The new coalition of high-profile campaigning organisations and housing associations has demanded action to build homes fit for an ageing population and disabled people.

As parliament dissolves ahead of a general election, the Housing Made for Everyone (HoME) coalition has urged the next government to take greater action to create suitable housing for all.

Recent research showed that less than half of local housebuilding plans in England included provision for accessible homes. Meanwhile, the number of households headed by someone aged 65 and over has increased by more than a million since 2010/11.

By 2030, it is suggested that there will be just one new accessible home built for every 15 people over the age of 65.

The HoME coalition is calling on the next government to guarantee all new homes will be built to Building Regulations, Volume 1, M4, Category 2 standards. This will ensure they have basic accessibility features making them suitable for a range of occupants, and can be easily adapted to meet further requirements.

Anna Dixon, chief executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, which co-chairs the coalition, said: “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.

“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 at Habinteg, which 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.”

7-step charter

The HoME coalition has launched a 7-step charter to transform new housing, including recommendations for central and local government, estate agents, and developers. It includes a higher regulatory baseline for accessibility of all new homes; better data on the availability of accessible homes; and policies on planning for suitable housing.

Darren Rodwell, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesperson, commented: “To tackle the shortage of suitable homes for older and disabled people, councils need greater planning powers and resources to hold developers to account, ensuring that they build the right homes in the right places needed by different groups within the local community.

“Accessibility features and home adaptations are also vital to help keep people safe and independent in their homes and prevent avoidable admissions to hospital and care homes. Every £1 spent on housing adaptations are worth more than £2 in care savings and quality of life gains.”

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