Delivering accessible homes for future generations

Sheron Carter, Chief Executive at Habinteg details the importance of delivering accessible homes for future generations.

Four years ago, when the optional access standards were introduced to building regulations for the first time, it was felt that housing policy had passed a huge milestone. Through Building Regulations Part M4, planning authorities were able to specify a proportion of new homes to be built to the accessible and adaptable standard (Category 2) and the wheelchair-user standard (Category 3).

The downside is that the standards are optional. On 25 June, there was much jubilation in the Habinteg office on hearing the government announce its intention to consult on making higher accessibility standards for new housing mandatory.

We saw a chink of light that could propel the delivery of accessible homes at a scale we feel the country desperately needs. Now, with a new PM in Downing Street, there is the inevitable churn of ministerial appointments.

We expect the new secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, Robert Jenrick, and new housing minister Esther McVey, will have new priorities. We don’t yet know whether the momentum that was gathering around accessible homes will be lost. We hope that as a former minister for disabled people, McVey will understand how housing can affect independence and quality of life for people with disabilities.

 

Basic standards

At present, only 7% of homes in England meet the basic accessibility standards. Yet there are 13.9 million (22%) people with disabilities in the UK, including 1.2 million wheelchair users. Alongside that we have a rapidly ageing population with the proportion of people over 65 set to rise to 28% by 2036.

In June, we released our Insight Report: A Forecast for Accessible Homes. We reviewed 322 local plans across England and estimated the trajectory for delivery of accessible housing between 2019 and 2030. We found that outside London just 23% of new homes are set to meet accessible and adaptable standards, and just 1% will meet wheelchair-user standards.

London’s ambition to deliver all new homes to an accessible and adaptable standard boosts the overall figure to 32% and 1.8% respectively. To put it another way, the projected delivery ratio for every person with disabilities is 1:72 new homes, and for wheelchair-users it is 1:903.

Accessible homes are vital to enable older persons and those with disabilities to live safely and independently. Failing to address the deficit in the number of accessible and adaptable homes will mean the new properties we build are not able to meet the needs of our ageing and disabled populations. We are still living in homes built hundreds of years ago. Homes that are built now are estimated to last 2,000 years given the current rate of development.

Fit for the future

To redress the balance, we will continue to call on the government to make the accessible and adaptable M4(2) Category 2 the mandatory baseline for all new housing. As the former Mayor of London, Boris Johnson has seen this policy in action and the benefit it brings.

Let’s hope the new vigour of his prime-ministerial administration translates into an ambitious, future-focused vision for housing. The government must seize the opportunity now to set the standard for design and ambitious targets for delivery to create places that will remain fit for future generations.

 

To discuss this article, contact Maggie Rafalowicz: maggie.rafalowicz@campbelltickell.com

This article is also featured in the latest CT Brief – Diversity Focus.

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