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DLUHC announcement win for accessible homes after seven-year campaign

Today’s announcement from the Department for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities that the accessibility standard for all new homes will be raised is a significant step towards tackling the UK’s acute and growing shortage of accessible homes.

In future, all new homes will be expected to meet the “Accessible and Adaptable” standard set out in building regulations.

The announcement clarifies that a second consultation will now be carried out on the implementation of the change, including updates to statutory guidance and the circumstances in which exceptions to the higher standard might apply. 

Christina McGill, Director of Social Impact & External Affairs, Habinteg, and Co-Chair of the Housing Made for Everyone (HoME) coalition, said:

“It’s encouraging to see this announcement after seven years of campaigning. Raising the mandatory access standard will remove many of the barriers currently limiting the number of accessible and adaptable homes being built and help deliver great quality inclusive housing that suits a wide range of people.

“While Habinteg welcomes this step, we are mindful that homes built to the highest access standard, designed to meet the needs of wheelchair users, are also in short supply and we urge local authorities to start thinking about how they will be able to use freed up resources to plan for sufficient wheelchair standard housing.

“The need for accessible homes will grow significantly over the next 20 years as our population ages. An accessible home can have a big impact on the independence and wellbeing of individuals and families and also help make much better use of social care and health service resources. With this in mind, we will continue to engage with the government and urge that any exceptions to the accessible and adaptable standard are kept to an absolute minimum.

“Building on today’s announcement we need the Department to carry out the next round of consultation with urgency so that the UK can get on with building the accessible, adaptable homes that are so sorely needed.”

“We owe huge thanks to all the individuals, organisations, staff, and partners who submitted a consultation response as part of our campaign with the HoME coalition. This is an important milestone but there is still much work to do.

“We hope you will join us in responding to the next round of consultation to ensure these higher accessibility standards come to fruition as speedily as possible, and in continuing to campaign for more wheelchair-accessible homes to be built.”

Key figures:

  • Only 9% of homes currently provide the four main features for the lowest level of accessibility – a home that is ‘visitable’ (English Housing Survey)
  • 1.8 million people in the UK need an accessible home (Habinteg: The Hidden Housing Market)
  • Over 400,000 wheelchair users live in homes that are neither adapted nor accessible/visitable.
  • A wheelchair user living in an accessible home is four times more likely to be employed than one whose home is not accessible (Habinteg: The Hidden Housing Market)
  • Around 13,500 new homes are built every month in the UK
  • 55% of adults without a mobility impairment feel they couldn't remain in their current home if they become disabled due to its design and layout (Habinteg)

Failure to address wheelchair-accessible homes

The announcement gives no direction on the appropriate provision of wheelchair-accessible homes (M4 (3)). While we regret that government does not plan at this stage to instigate a nationally applicable requirement for a proportion of new homes to be built to Wheelchair Accessible standard, we will strongly encourage Local Planning Authorities to use the opportunity to focus their resources on planning fully wheelchair-accessible homes across the country to meet the growing need.

The Forecast for accessible homes, published by Habinteg in 2020, urged the government to set a clear expectation that each Local Planning Authority must set out a policy for a proportion of wheelchair-accessible properties to be built within each iteration of their local plan. At the time of publication, only 48% of local plans included such a policy.

Local Planning Authorities must also be thorough and proactive in planning for the housing needs of older and disabled people and specifically name M4(3) standards in plans, with clear percentages of new homes required in each plan.

Our access and inclusive design experts at the Centre for Accessible Environments can offer technical expertise, training and other support, to help local authorities and the sector transition to accessible and adaptable homes.

Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to find out when the second consultation is taking place and how you can show your support.

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A group of Habinteg staff celebrate #ForAccessibleHomes. The staff are holding a banner that says

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