By Kate Henderson, chief executive at National Housing Federation
This week, the housing sector is celebrating #ForAccessibleHomesWeek, a moment to reflect on the critical importance of housing which works for disabled people.
Like many of us, I have seen for myself the positive, life-changing impact that a fully accessible home can make to people, and the doors that can be opened to a life of independence and joy.
But this week, Habinteg is highlighting the shocking picture of housing for disabled people in England, where just 9% of homes have basic, accessibility features. In fact, the largest group on council waiting lists, after people living in overcrowded or insanitary conditions, was recently found to be ‘people who need to move on medical or welfare grounds, including grounds relating to a disability’. This means that there are hundreds of thousands of disabled people living without the accessible housing that they need – limiting opportunities for people to work, socialise, and carry out important daily tasks such as physiotherapy or shopping.
It is clear to me that as our nation stands at the edge of recovery, we face a real chance for a renewal and an opportunity to rethink how we move forward together as communities. Having been through some of the bleakest times in living memory, now is the time to focus on hope for the future – and a better, more inclusive future than we might once have thought possible.
The National Housing Federation (NHF) Homes at the Heart campaign is highlighting what we can all do in the housing association sector to put homes at the heart of recovery, and to ensure that every member of society has the chance of a settled future. Amongst other key themes, Homes at the Heart has been highlighting the value of affordable homes, the importance of supporting people to live independently, and the initiatives which help people find and keep jobs.
In tune with this movement, we have just seen a landmark consultation launched by the Government, with the aim of making all new homes more accessible for older and disabled people. This indicates a really positive step forward for the thousands of people in need of suitable housing, and housing associations will be key to making this ambition come alive.
This month also sees the NHF submission, on behalf of the housing association sector, to the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR). Through their work with disabled people, housing associations are well-placed to support the Government’s priorities on the economy, supporting jobs and skills, and levelling up. Our submission calls for a new generation of affordable homes for everyone, and help for people to thrive at home. What could be more important than access to the kind of homes and places which can improve disabled people’s mental wellbeing, transform lives for the better, and save vital public funds along the way?
This year’s #ForAccessibleHomesWeek shows us that housing which is suitable for disabled people can make the world of difference to individuals and communities – but it is in tragically short supply. The work of brilliant organisations like Habinteg mean that there are good quality, affordable and accessible homes available for thousands of people living across the country. We in the housing sector are clear about the role our organisations can play in an inclusive recovery, and we welcome steps from the Government to deliver fully accessible new homes. But we also need our partners in Government to seize this opportunity for housing-led renewal on a national scale.