Habinteg Housing Association Bramley, Leeds. Ian Whetham in his home.
Credit: Roger Moody / Guzelian

The UK’s largest charity dedicated to helping people make the most out of later life and a charitable housing association specialising in accessible housing have launched a joint campaign calling for all new homes to be built to higher accessibility standards and for more wheelchair-accessible housing.

At present, only seven percent of the UK’s existing housing stock has the most basic features that make homes visitable to disabled people and older people with restricted mobility, despite figures from the Department for Work and Pensions estimating there are currently 6.5 million people with mobility problems and 13.9 million disabled people in the UK.

Compounding the problem, research carried out by Habinteg revealed the UK’s accessible housing crisis is set to grow, after analysing 322 local English planning policies for what types of homes are to be built by 2030.

From the study, the housing association found only 23 percent of new homes outside London are planned to be accessible and just one percent of homes outside London are set to be suitable for wheelchair users, despite 1.2million wheelchair users in the UK.

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Concerned by the lack of appropriate housing for a substantial and growing demographic of the UK, Age UK and Habinteg warn that unless homes become more adaptable, future generations will be forced to ‘make do’ in homes that fail to meet their needs.

In response, the organisations have released a new campaign factsheet Home Truths – rebutting the 10 myths about building accessible housing,’ challenging the myths that delivering accessible housing is too costly, too difficult or simply undesirable for buyers.

Sheron Carter, Habinteg CEO said: “An adaptable home and environment allows people to maintain connections with family and friends and stay active in their local community. The ability to move around the home and use its facilities with less effort brings dignity to life when things are changing. It helps people to retain their self-esteem and independence.

“It’s so important that we challenge misconceptions about accessible homes. They are just ordinary homes with accessible and adaptable features. Just a bit of thoughtfulness in design makes a huge difference. We hope that this Home Truths myth buster will be a useful tool for everyone who wants to push for homes that are good for every generation.”

The factsheet is part of the two organisations’ push for regulation to ensure all new homes are built to accessible adaptable standard M4 (Category 2) as a minimum, as well as 10 percent of new homes to be built to wheelchair-accessible standards.

Introduced in 2015, the accessible and adaptable standard for new homes aims to ensure a basic level of accessibility and adaptability through a range of features, for example, level access, wider doorways and bathroom walls that are strong enough to install a grab rail.

The standards are designed to allow for the easier and cheaper adaptation of homes, should the resident’s circumstances change, however, the accessible and adaptable standard category 2 is optional, meaning Local Planning Authorities have to make the case for requiring new homes in their area to be built to the standard.

Additionally, it means developers can challenge local authority requirements, often based on cost arguments that do not stand up to scrutiny, according to the organisations.

Habinteg Housing Association Rawcliffe Grove Hull. Resident Geoffrey Bone using adapted cupboard in the kitchen.
Credit: Roger Moody / Guzelian

Addressing the issue of expense directly in its factsheet, Age UK and Habinteg point to a report commissioned by the government which estimates it would only cost an extra £521 to build an average three-bedroom standard semi-detached house to the M4 ( Category 2) Standard, with a further space cost of £866 – £1,387 per dwelling.

Despite the additional cost, the organisations note that over the long-term, the additional expense would be substantially offset by the reduced costs on the NHS and care services, due to accessible and adaptable homes making it easier to remain healthy and independent.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “A well-designed home can work across a whole lifetime or for any generation, so it just makes common sense to make sure that all new homes are accessible, flexible and adaptable regardless of whether they are initially built for first-time buyers. If not, we’re creating swathes of housing stock that won’t be appropriate for a big part of the population.

“We know there are huge benefits to people being able to stay in their own home as they get older – and if we make it harder for people to do this then it will have a detrimental impact on people’s health and wellbeing as well as a financial impact in the terms of the costs to the NHS.”

In addition to calling for the building standard to be made mandatory and more wheelchair accessible homes, Age UK and Habinteg are also campaigning for the Government to amend planning rules in the interim to protect the discretion of local authorities to decide the number of accessible homes built in their area

“Last Month the Prime Minister committed to a consultation that could deliver up to 300,000 new accessible and adaptable homes,” finished Caroline.

“We are calling on the new Prime Minister to follow this through as a priority.”

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https://i1.wp.com/thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/accessible-housing-shortage-call-Age-UK-Habinteg.jpg?fit=1000%2C664&ssl=1https://i1.wp.com/thiis.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/accessible-housing-shortage-call-Age-UK-Habinteg.jpg?resize=150%2C150&ssl=1Calvin BarnettCharities & OrganisationsHousingNewsroomaccessible and adaptable standard,Age UK,building regulations,charity,Department for Work and Pensions,Habinteg,housing association,housing crisis,local authorities,local planning authorities,NHS,Prime MinisterThe UK’s largest charity dedicated to helping people make the most out of later life and a charitable housing association specialising in accessible housing have launched a joint campaign calling for all new homes to be built to higher accessibility standards and for more wheelchair-accessible housing. At present, only seven...News, views & products for mobility, access and independent living professionals