The debate tackled issues surrounding overall government policy on the provision of accessible and affordable housing. Points debated included the definition of ‘affordability’ in terms of market related mortgages and private rent rates as opposed to the reality of what level of housing people can actually afford.
The provision of accessible housing in the UK was touched on by Baroness Thomas of Winchester (Lib Dem) who said “This year, Habinteg, a housing association specialising in accessible homes, analysed the accessible housing policies detailed in 263 of the 365 local plans across England. It found that, although 65% of the local planning authorities that it reviewed made reference to the lifetime homes standard or category 2, only 32% made a firm commitment to deliver a specific proportion of new homes to that standard. Just 18% committed to a specific proportion of new homes using category 3.”
The report by Habinteg highlights the level of commitment Local Authorities have towards the provision of accessible and adaptable dwellings (category 2) and wheelchair user dwellings (category 3). It concluded that while there was still a lot of work to be done in this area, it is encouraging that some minor progress is being made.
Baroness Thomas further added, “As for adapting existing housing, local authorities should be urged to make use of the new toolkits produced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in partnership with Habinteg which cover, among other things, providing and managing housing adaptations and the allocation of housing.”
The toolkits are designed to support councils in their objective of ensuring that disabled people are suitably housed. It provides separate, downloadable guides for each aspect of the challenge covering everything from planning for accessible homes to providing and managing housing adaptations, the allocation of housing, strategic planning and supporting tenants once housed.
Sheron Carter, CEO Habinteg Housing, added “"We thank Baroness Thomas for her kind words highlighting the need for local planning to be far more progressive in its provision of accessible housing. If new, affordable homes are not planned and designed to be accessible, in less than a decade we will potentially be looking at a different sort of crisis. This is being evidenced by reported strains on the NHS. Older people are remaining in hospital when accessible features at home would allow them to be discharged.”