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Disability strategy misses golden opportunity on accessible housing say housing experts

Today, Wednesday 28 July 2021, the Government published their National Disability Strategy with the stated aim of improving the everyday lives of disabled people. The strategy sets out  aims to address disabled people’s housing needs as well as other themes including transport, employment, education, shopping leisure and public services.

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 the strategy stops short of these steps. Instead, it commits the Ministry of Housing Community and Local Government to:

  • confirm plans to improve the framework to deliver accessible new homes by December 2021
  • commission new research to develop statutory guidance on meeting Building Regulations covering access to and use of buildings.
     

Kerry Thompson, an award winning 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 ok 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 said:

“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.”

Other housing commitments set out in the strategy include:

  • enacting aspects of the Equality Act 2010 which require private landlords to allow adaptations to shared areas of their buildings to improve access for disabled tenants
  • allocating funds to deliver more affordable supported housing
  • making improvements to the administration of Disabled Facilities Grants
  • ensuring the safety of disable people in buildings during emergencies.


Habinteg believes that adequate housing is fundamental to inclusion and equality for disabled people.

Home is the starting point for every day, whether that be a day of work, study, parenting, volunteering or leisure. Yet currently only 9% of homes in England offer even the most basic level of accessibility and this puts disabled people at a severe disadvantage in all aspects of life.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1. Kerry Thompson and or a Habinteg spokesperson are available for interview. Please contact:

2. Key data:

  • The English Housing survey shows that Only 9% of English homes offer even the most basic access features to make them ‘visitable’ by a range of people including disabled people (EHS)
  • Using English Housing Survey data Habinteg estimates that there are 400,000 wheelchair users living in homes that are neither accessible nor adapted for their needs (Habinteg)
  • Disabled people who have their accessible housing need met are four times more likely to be in employment than disabled people without accessible homes (Habinteg and Papworth Trust, Hidden Housing Market 2016)
  • The English Housing Survey adaptations report showed:
    • a. In 2019-20, 53% (1 million) of households that required adaptations, did not have the adaptations that they needed. This represented an increase since 2014-15 when 45% (864,000) of households lacked one or more adaptations
    • b. In 2019-20, 9% (176,000) of households that required adaptations said they wanted to move (either in the process of moving or trying to move) to get somewhere more suitable for their needs; a similar position to 2014-15 (10%, 185,000)
    • c. Around 1.9 million households (8% of all homes) in England had one or more people with a health condition that required adaptations to their home, this has not changed since 2014-15.
    • d. Almost one in five households who need adaptations say their home is unsuitable for their needs.


3. About Habinteg

Habinteg is a leading national provider of affordable accessible homes and support services. We champion inclusion by providing sustainable neighbourhoods of Lifetime Homes and wheelchair standard properties for disabled and non-disabled people to share and enjoy. We use our expertise to challenge negative social attitudes, promote the rights of disabled people and improve accessibility standards within housing.

Since 1970, our thoughtful designs and on-site support have enabled tenants to achieve and sustain independent living. Habinteg has over 3,300 homes across 86 local authorities. One in three of our properties are designed specifically for wheelchair users, and the majority of the remaining homes have been built to an accessible or Lifetime Homes Standard.

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