Experts from the housing and disability sectors gave their views on the Government’s housing standards proposals at Habinteg’s Homes for Living Forum in London on 17 September.
The event, designed to share and highlight different perspectives on the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) plans, included addresses from the architects of the proposals at DCLG as well as representatives from Age UK, the Centre for Accessible Environments and others impacted by the new access standards.
Delegates engaged in lively debate around technical aspects of the proposed standards as well as the policy context. Concerns included:
- Definitions of viability and concern that the supply of accessible housing could be severely limited by the narrow cost framework of the proposal. Future cost savings to health and care budgets hugely outweigh any minimal upfront build cost invested in accessible, adaptable homes
- Enforcement of the proposals may compromise the higher quality standards already adopted in some local authorities (such as Manchester and Camden) that are proving successful in delivering accessible homes to meet local need.
- Lack of reflection within the proposals about the challenges of housing an ageing population; prioritising delivery of accessible homes is the only way to offer the volume and choice of housing that will be needed by older people in future years.
- The potential impact on disabled people and older people of ‘watering down’ some aspects of current design standards; a robust access standard must be backed up by regulation.
- Concern that placing a cap on the proportion of wheelchair housing that authorities can specify could leave disabled people without a place to live that meets their needs.
Speaking after the event, Habinteg Chief Executive Paul Gamble, said:
“I am really pleased to have been able to welcome such an experienced and diverse range of experts to this Habinteg forum. From architects to local authority officers and across both the housing and disability sectors, we have heard clearly that access must be an integral part of any new standards. The event highlighted that the changes are not straightforward and that the voices of disabled and older people need to be an essential part of the consultation. We will use the feedback generated from the event to shape our consultation response. We want to ensure any changes to housing standards increase the supply of accessible homes. Today’s event shows a strong consensus in our campaign to achieve that goal.”
Forum speaker, kitchen designer and wheelchair accessible homeowner Adam Thomas, said:
“The only place I can be 100% independent is my own home. Nowhere else on the planet. I can’t stress enough how that feels and the importance of accessible housing to people’s livelihoods. The Homes for Living Forum has really stoked up the debate around the Government’s proposals.”
Anthony Allott, Occupational Therapist and representative of College of Occupational Therapists Specialist Section (COTSS-H), said:
“If a project like HS2 was not fully accessible that would be unacceptable. Though for something as fundamental as housing the Government are proposing a lower standard (Level 1), which would result in many homes being less accessible than HS2. Habinteg’s event has really brought the issue to life. I feel freshly energised in submitting a response to the consultation.”
Habinteg would like to hear the views of stakeholders on this critical issue, and strongly encourages organisations and individuals to respond to the consultation.
The presentations given at the Homes for Living Forum are available online at: http://www.slideshare.net/habinteg
You can read our initial policy and technical responses to the consultation on our responses page on this site at www.habinteg.org.uk/responses.
To tell us what you think about the proposals or our draft response, please email us on email@example.com.