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Public wants homes to be suitable for all ages

Words: Laura Edgar
Accessible bathroom / iStock-638157966

Most people would like new homes to be built so that they are suitable for people of all ages and abilities.

A YouGov poll of 4,000 UK adults found that 72 per cent felt this should be the standard for new housing. Nearly half of those asked (48 per cent) disagreed that UK society does enough to support people to live at home safely and independently as they age.

The research shows the degree to which people are happy to buy properties that come with features such as level access entrances, walk-in showers or handrail, that mean they are suitable for all abilities, said the Centre for Ageing Better, the organisation that commissioned the poll.

The poll found that:

  • 33 per cent said they would be encouraged to purchase a home with such characteristics.
  • 48 per cent said they would be neither encouraged nor discouraged.
  • 25 per cent 18-24s and 28 per cent of 25-34s they would be encouraged to buy them, with around half saying they would be neither encouraged nor discouraged.
  • 61 per cent don’t think their home is suitable for a person with a disability or an older relative to move around.
  • 45 per cent of over 65s worry about themselves struggling with everyday activities, such as cooking and bathing. 32 per cent worry about someone else in their household struggling with the same tasks.

National policy outlines that local planning policies should reflect the housing needs of the community, including for older people and people with disabilities, and that every development should include a proportion of accessible housing. But, the Centre for Ageing Better said national planning policy is “fragmented”. There isn’t any “clear guidance” or a standardised way to assess current and future need for accessible homes in an area. It said local plans that would deliver accessible homes “are often rejected”.

The charity highlighted that the English Housing Survey says 7 per cent of UK homes meet basic accessibility standards, and that new-build homes are often marketed at first-time buyers without consideration who may live there in the future.

Dr Anna Dixon, chief executive of the Centre for Ageing Better, said the state of the housing stock is “woeful” and among the worst in Europe.

“We are facing an accessible housing crisis, putting unnecessary pressure on individuals, families and public services. If we do nothing, this will only get worse.

“There is a big market for homes that everyone can live in, regardless of their age or ability. Our research shows a strong public appetite for age-proof homes which enable people to live active and fulfilling lives – whatever their situation. We need everyone responsible for building new homes to get on board and give people what they want. National rules must be strengthened, and planners within local authorities must work with developers and builders to enforce them.”

The charity thinks developers and councils should be required to build every new home so they are accessible for someone with a disability or be easily and cost-effectively adapted.

The online survey was conducted between 25 January and 29 January 2019.

Image credit | iStock