England faces an “imminent” crisis in accessible homes for older and disabled people, warns Habinteg

LESS than a quarter of new homes built outside of London by 2030 will be suitable for older and disabled people, prompting a warning that England faces a crisis in accessible housing.

In research carried out by Habinteg Housing Association, based on analysis of 322 local planning policies, the organisation said its findings revealed such a crisis was “imminent”, unless steps are taken to ensure provision of more accessible homes.

The organisation’s new Insight Report: A Forecast for Accessible Homes analyses English local plans, which set policies for what types of homes are to be built by 2030 and where. There are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK, it points out, yet claims that just 7% of English homes currently provide even the most basic accessibility features.

Outside of London under a quarter (23%) of new homes due to be built by 2030 are planned to be accessible, it found. This bodes ill for the health and independence of older and disabled people, according to Habinteg.

Furthermore, just 1% of homes outside London are set to be suitable for wheelchair users despite 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UK and a rapidly ageing population.

National forecasts in the delivery of accessible homes are being bolstered by London, Habinteg said, since the Greater London Authority requires 90% of new homes to be built to accessible and adaptable standards (known as building regulations M4 category 2). Meanwhile, it requires 10% to meet wheelchair accessible standards (known as building regulations M4 category 3).

Based on these findings, Habinteg is calling on the Government to change national policy so that all new homes are built to be more accessible and adaptable, as they are in London.

“I constantly worry that if job opportunities come up in another area, I may have to turn them down because there’s not enough housing that’s accessible,” said actress and broadcaster, Sam Renke, who is a Habinteg tenant.

“As a full-time wheelchair user, moving to London and having a home that really works for me has been vital to my ability to develop my career. After a long time in unsuitable accommodation I’m in a wheelchair accessible home that meets my needs, but there is always a lingering anxiety about what may happen in the future.”

Sheron Carter, Habinteg’s chief executive, added: “We would encourage national government to take a more strategic approach to accessible homes delivery. The optional approach is not only putting older and disabled people’s health and independence at risk but creating costly housing problems for the future.

“While the Government has stated their ambition for getting more disabled people into work, our research shows that this will fail unless the housing crisis for disabled people is urgently tackled. We strongly urge the government to raise the mandatory baseline standard for accessible homes.”

Habinteg is urging the Government to:

  • Set the ‘accessible adaptable’ standard M4(2) Category 2 as the new mandatory baseline, as it is in London
  • Ensure the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government issues new guidance to local planning authorities on how they should reflect the housing needs of older and disabled people in their plans. This duty was set out in the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 but guidance has not yet been issued, Habinteg says
  • Habinteg also call for local authorities to set a defined percentage of new homes as wheelchair accessible M4(3) Category 3

Responding to the report, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesperson, Councillor Martin Tett, said: “Housing is critical to the wellbeing of individuals, and well-designed accessible homes are needed to meet the housing needs of our ageing population.

“Councils want to ensure the right homes are built in the right places but currently don’t have the powers or funding to build the homes that are desperately needed.

“We believe that new homes should be accessible or easily adaptable for people of all generations and needs, and it is vital the Government ensures national rules incentivise the building of accessible homes.

“Furthermore, it is crucial to acknowledge that the majority of people will live in existing housing. The Government needs to continue to invest in supporting the adaptation of homes to meet the needs of people as their circumstances change.”

NH

 

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