Accessible housing image
A wheelchair-accessible bungalow developed by Habinteg in Leeds.

Accessible homes provider Habinteg has stated that the Government’s National Disability Strategy published yesterday has missed a golden opportunity on implementing accessible housing.

The Department of Work and Pensions published its National Disability Strategy with the stated aim of improving the everyday lives of disabled people, which included addressing disabled people’s housing needs.

Habinteg want to see the building regulations ‘accessible and adaptable’ standard established as the minimum requirement for all new homes as well as a national expectation for a proportion of all homes to be built to wheelchair accessible standards. However, it says, the strategy stops short of these steps.

Instead, they state that the strategy commits the Ministry of Housing Community and Local Government to confirm plans to improve the framework to deliver accessible new homes by December 2021 and commission new research to develop statutory guidance on meeting Building Regulations covering access to and use of buildings.

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Kerry Thompson, a disability campaigner, wheelchair user and Habinteg tenant said: “It’s so disappointing that the Government has missed the opportunity to make a firm joined up link between accessible homes and other key policy areas.

“Without accessible homes disabled people are held back from ‘levelling up’ in so many ways. It’s harder to work, to raise a family, to study or even just build relationships with neighbours and friends.

“These are all basic things that most non-disabled people don’t think twice about.

“The Government’s own figures show that the number of people who want to move to find somewhere more accessible is increasing. At the same time, there are 400,000 wheelchair users living in homes that are neither adapted nor designed to be accessible.

“It’s simply not okay that so many people are making do in unsuitable homes. If we’re serious about equality and inclusion this must change now before it’s too late.”

Nick Apetroaie, Habinteg Chief Executive, added: “Despite the strategy setting out ambitions to tackle inequality, we believe it’s missed an opportunity to make immediate and straight forward changes to building regulations.

“Increasing the minimum accessibility requirements for all new homes would have made thousands more homes that are easy to adapt when needed and ensure that an adequate level of inclusive design is provided in all new developments.

“The case for change is simple and we don’t believe it’s enough to plan for more research. Every year’s delay means thousands more homes being built that are not inclusive or accessible for disabled people.”

Habinteg forms part of the HoME Coalition: a coalition of charities and housing organisations that is calling for the UK Government to raise building standards to make the ‘accessible and adaptable’ design standard the mandatory baseline for all new homes (set out in Building Regulations M4 Category 2).

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