Wheelchair user in accessible housing kitchen

New research analysing housing plans across England has forewarned of an accessible homes crisis, forecasting that less than a quarter of homes built outside of London by 2030 will be suitable for older and disabled people.

Habinteg, the charitable housing association specialising in accessible housing, carried out a nationwide analysis of the 322 local English planning policies for what types of homes are to be built by 2030 and in its new insight report ‘A Forecast for Accessible Homes’.

A lack of accessible housing planned

According to Habinteg, 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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Despite 13.9million disabled people in the UK and a rapidly ageing population, only seven percent of English homes currently provide even the most basic accessibility features, says the housing association.

New builds projected to meet accessible standards

A postcode lottery

In particular, Habinteg highlighted that there is a postcode lottery in the supply of new accessible and adaptable homes, emphasising that in the West Midlands, there will only be one accessible new home built for every 270 people by 2030.

In comparison, in the East of England there will be one accessible new home for every 52 people and in London, there will be one for every 24 people.

A projection of accessible housing planned in England by 2030 out of new build plans

Increased costs and strains

Stating that unless new homes are built suitably for older and disabled people, Habinteg stressed that there will be increased demand on already strained public services and higher cost implications on the public sector.

The findings support the results of independent living equipment supplier Mira Showers cost calculator comparison in May, underlining the financial benefits related to future-proofing homes and suggesting care homes are 65 percent more expensive than “age-proofing” homes.

A call on government

Following the findings, the housing association 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.

Currently, the Greater London Authority requires 90 percent of new homes to be built to accessible and adaptable standards – M4 (2) Category 2 – and 10 percent to wheelchair accessible standards – M4 (3) Category 3.

Specifically, Habinteg is calling on the government to set the M4(2) Category 2 as the new mandatory baseline across England, as well as for local authorities to set a defined percentage of new homes as wheelchair accessible M4(3) Category 3.

Discussing the findings, Sheron Carter, Chief Executive of Habinteg, commented: “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.”

Additionally, the accessible housing association says the Secretary of State for Homes, Communities & 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.

A growing concern

The report echoes the call made by the Centre for Ageing Better in February 2019, with the charity highlighting that national housing planning policy is fragmented, with no clear guidance, and no standardised way to assess current and future need for accessible homes in an area.

Following the findings, the Local Government Association and the Centre for Ageing Better both responded to the recommendations made by Habinteg.

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