On Tuesday 11 September, Habinteg Housing Association met with cross party MPs at Parliament to speak about the provision of accessible housing in the UK. It was the second day of a week of action to push for adequate housing for disabled people and those who will become disabled. Current government statistics indicate that 10 million people living in the UK have hearing loss. By 2020 it is estimated the number of visually impaired people will exceed 2m. The NHS cites there are 1.2m wheelchair users in the UK.
Habinteg has received support from disability charities, housing providers, experts and members of the public who provided individual perspectives on a subject that currently affects over 13m people in the UK1. The housing association and social policy influencer is shifting the conversation to highlight the importance of adequate local authority planning to compliment provision of appropriate housing. The push is for all local authorities to adopt the recommendations that 90% of new build schemes should offer accessible homes to the current category 2 standard3 of UK building regulations (previously known as Lifetime Homes) with the remaining 10% of stock being wheelchair accessible dwellings. This approach has already been adopted in the London Plan, meaning all new build homes in London are built to an accessible standard.
To support the rationale for all local authorities to adopt this strategy, Habinteg has published research that indicates that only about a third of local authorities are planning for the access needs of future communities. These needs are likely to include greater flexibility to create and maintain social infrastructures to support an ageing population, housing stock that will be flexible enough to accommodate the needs of those who will become disabled, and sustainable enough so that a future housing crisis can be avoided.
The bar for housing has been raised with updates to the National Planning Policy Framework which was updated in July. Habinteg’s push is for the planning guidance to be the first step for local authority planning and housing teams in devising new schemes.
Habinteg Chief Executive Sheron Carter says: “The London plan for housing and those in major metropolitan areas such as Liverpool and Leeds have adopted the 90/10 approach for new build scheme. 90% of homes should be accessible and adaptable while 10% should be designed specifically for the needs of wheelchair users. These areas also focus on providing inclusive communities with better social infrastructure. This is an example of using insight as well as resources to deliver what diverse populations need.”
Liverpool City Councillor Pam Thomas says, “Liverpool Mayor, Joe Anderson and I understand the importance of Lifetime Homes which are adaptable as people’s needs change. Not all housing developers understand the importance of this and we do try to emphasise the need when we receive planning applications.”