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Study warns of ‘crisis’ in accessible homes provision

Words: Laura Edgar
Accessible bathroom / iStock-638157966

Less than 25 per cent of homes outside of London to be built by 2030 will be suitable for older and disabled people, a housing association has warned.

Habinteg has analysed 322 local planning policies, set out in local plans, which suggests there is an “imminent crisis” in the all types of accessible homes.

A Forecast for Accessible Homes finds:

  • 23 per cent – The percentage of homes outside London due to be built by 2030 that will be affordable.
  • 1 per cent – The percentage of homes outside London that are set to be suitable for wheelchair users. There are 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UK.
  • There is a postcode lottery in the supply of new accessible and adaptable homes. By 2030 there will one accessible home built for every 270 people in the West Midlands, one for every 52 people in the East of England and one for every 24 people in London.

There are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK, but just 7 per cent of English homes currently provide even the most basic accessibility features, said Habinteg Housing Association.

Unless suitable new homes are provided, older and disabled people “will be excluded” from aspects of daily life, which will increase the demand on public services.

The Greater London Authority (GLA) requires 90 per cent of new homes to be built to accessible and adaptable standards (known as building regulations M4 category 2*), while 10 per cent must be built to wheelchair accessible standards, “bolstering” the national forecast.

Habinteg is calling on the government to change national policy so that all new homes are built to be more accessible and adaptable, as in London. Further, local authorities should set a defined percentage of new homes as wheelchair-accessible M4(3) Category 3.

The housing association's chief executive Sheron Carter said: “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 its 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 also wants the housing secretary to issues new guidance to local planning authorities on how they should reflect the housing needs of older and disabled people in their plans – a duty that was set out in the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 but for which guidance has not yet been issued.

Martin Tett, housing spokesman for the Local Government Association (LGA), said: “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 that 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.”

Image credit | iStock