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1.8m disabled people have unmet housing need – research

Words: Laura Edgar

According to new research, there are 1.8 million disabled people who have housing needs that are currently unmet in the UK.

The research has been launched by Papworth Trust, a charity supporting disabled and older people, and Habinteg, a housing association for disabled people, and conducted by teams at the London School of Economics (LSE) and Ipsos MORI.

The No Place Like an Accessible Home report aims to challenge assumptions about the potential for disabled people to buy their own homes as well shed light on the wider appeal of homes that deliver high quality accessible features.

There are 11.6 million disabled people in the UK, with the report suggesting that 1.8 million having unmet housing needs, of which 580,000 are of working age. In addition, 56 per cent of these own their own home, with 39 per cent having incomes in the top half of the income distribution.

No Place Like an Accessible Home also states that 19 per cent of the British public would most favour moving to a different property that has been specifically designed or adapted to enable them to live independently in later life.

It also suggests that the impact of this unmet housing need, which leaves disabled people living in inaccessible homes, results in them being “four times more likely to be unemployed”.

When surveyed on potential later life housing needs, less than one in 10 of the public said they would prefer to move to specialist care and supported housing, while 59 per cent of disable people who are 65 and over say that they will personally need some accessible housing features in the next five years.

The report also adds that a couple with small children, a young professional having furniture delivered to their first homes or an active retired grandparent all can benefit from the features of inclusively designed homes.

Vicky McDermott, chief executive of Papworth Trust, said: “It has been widely assumed that disabled people do not have the means or money to purchase their own home. This report clearly dispels this myth and shows the demand for buying accessible homes, and the opportunity for developers to look again at their market.”

She said that building more accessible homes is a “fundamental part of future-proofing the housing market,” with a short term investment and a long term positive social impact on other services.

Paul Gamble, chief executive of Habinteg added: “New homes that are accessible, affordable and available must play a part in addressing the long term demands of UK housing policy, especially as the population ages. We’re hoping to see a new commitment to this from the government, local authorities and developers from now on.”

The report includes four priority recommendations:

  • Developers should look again at their target markets and products to see if they missing out on a significant market opportunity.

  • Developers, planners and health and social care commissioners should take note of the desire of the public to maintain independence in mainstream housing and communities as they age or develop needs for care and support.

  • Government departments should collaborate to investigate the relationship between unmet need for accessible housing and being out of work. As part of the government drive to reduce the employment gap for disabled people, understanding the fundamental role that appropriate housing play will be “crucial”.

  • Improving national data resources is critical in order to respond effectively to the nation’s housing needs. Disregarding the needs of families with disabled children from the official statistics is a missed opportunity to match housing need with accurate, evidence-based plans.

Victoria Pinoncely, RTPI research officer said: “This research provides great insight on the social and economic costs of a lack of accessible housing. Any loss of ability to live independently and to participate in the economy and society hurts individuals, but also society and the economy as a whole. Inclusive planning means planning for everyone, regardless of age, ability, gender or background, and providing accessible housing would benefit disabled people but also other groups such as the elderly. The RTPI welcomes the recognition that location is an important factor for disabled people in terms of proximity of family and friends, as well as adaptions in the home.”

No Place Like an Accessible Home can be found here (pdf). 

* The research includes an online survey completed by 1,001 disabled people among a standing panel of respondents run by Public Knowledge, a face to face in home interview with 2,074 adults across Britain conducted in April and March this year and analysis of government data, amongst other areas.

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