Habinteg has marked its 50th anniversary as a leader in accessible housing with an interactive online event including invited sector & celebrity guests, and a message from the Housing Minister.
The Rt. Hon Christopher Pincher MP tweeted: “Congratulations to @Habinteg on celebrating 50yrs of building accessible homes and communities – I hope you look forward to another 50. The Government is working to deliver more accessible homes and I encourage everyone to respond to our consultation.”
Habinteg celebrated its half-century milestone by urging the public to respond to the Government’s open consultation on raising accessibility standards for new homes.
The consultation is examining how to best increase the number of accessible homes in England and what changes to policy and regulations, relating to the optional technical standards for accessible housing, would achieve the biggest impact.
The event was the perfect platform to highlight the importance of the consultation for disabled and older people and celebrate the work the housing association and the sector has done to improve accessibility.
The online gathering brought together tenants, parliamentarians and disabled campaigners as well as sector and celebrity guests. They included event host Lord Jamie Borwick, Baroness Celia Thomas of Winchester, and winner of the 2018 Britain’s Got Talent TV show, comedian Lee Ridley AKA Lost Voice Guy.
Lee supported Habinteg’s #ForAccessibleHomes week in September. Discussing the design of his own home and accessibility, he said: "My home doesn’t have many adaptations at all. I was lucky enough to find somewhere that suited my needs, but I realise this is rarely the case for most people.
“I got involved with #ForAccessibleHomes because I know just how important it is to make the world a more accessible place. It's vital that campaigns like this are highlighted as much as possible.”
The virtual event was a joint celebration with Habinteg’s specialist access team, the Centre for Accessible Environments (CAE) who support clients to create and manage built environments that everyone can use, and train the next generation of inclusive design specialists.
The winner of the Habinteg 2020 Prize essay competition was announced at the gathering. Academic and non-academic entrants, including disabled people and students submitted essays that considered what the next 50 years might bring in the realm of accessibility.
Competition winner, Kathryn Thomas, a recently qualified architect, received a £2,500 cash prize and the opportunity of a week-long placement with CAE.
Kathryn’s essay calls for a re-evaluation of town planning, greater emphasis on inclusion and accessibility and for an evaluation of national policy to ensure accessible housing is delivered in all new developments.
She also argues for dedicated legislation to secure built environment designs that would better include people with profound and multiple learning difficulties, autism and dementia.
“The main reason I entered is that my mum has multiple sclerosis,” said Kathryn, “and it’s been heart-breaking to see how she’s treated.
“I’d phone up places and ask ‘are you accessible?’ They’d say yes, and you get there and they’re not. It’s a massive frustration, this misunderstanding of what accessible is.”
University students Clare Bond and Catalina Morales Maya were awarded £500 runner-up prizes for their essays.
The chair of Habinteg’s 2020 essay competition judging panel, Lord Borwick, said the essay competition was a great opportunity to uncover some insightful ideas for accessible homes and communities of the future.
He added: “We must ensure that the many places that are inhospitable to large numbers of disabled people in the built environment, not least the majority of homes that are already built, are truly accessible and inclusive. And ideas such as these have their part to play in helping us reach that goal."
During the event, Habinteg’s Lockdown Angels - tenants from across the country who have gone above and beyond to help people in their community during the COVID-19 pandemic - were also acknowledged. They included Jermain Jackman, winner of The Voice UK 2014, who delivered a socially distanced community concert to boost morale.
Jermain shared his delight of the accolade with chair of Habinteg’s board, Manny Lewis and said: “Whenever I’m down or upset, I tend to turn to music to find comfort and when we went into lockdown, around April/May, a lot of people were down.
“One of the things that would bring the community together is clapping for NHS workers. I saw that sense of community and I wanted to bring joy and some comfort to my local residents.”
Another Lockdown Angel, Richard Steade, told Manny: “When lockdown first started I instantly thought about John and Sheila, my two elderly neighbours. They’re the only people in the neighbourhood without a car as John stopped driving a few years ago due to his wheelchair.
“I work at a nearby Tesco, so I was picking up groceries, newspapers and toiletries for them as and when they needed to make their life a little easier. I can’t believe my common decency has landed me an award. Thank you Habinteg.”
Other speakers at Habinteg’s first virtual celebration were Insight Group member and disability campaigner Delores Taylor and blogger, campaigner and Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 influencer Kerry Thompson.
Since Prime Minister Edward Heath opened its first housing scheme in 1973, Habinteg has come a long way and now has over 3,300 properties across the country. Other key achievements include:
- Playing a key role in development of the Lifetime Homes Standard
- Working with others to incorporate the principles of the Lifetime Homes standard & the Wheelchair Housing Design Guide into national building regulations (as optional standards for new homes)
- Helping change the law to embed consideration of the housing needs of older & disabled people in national policy.
Habinteg’s Director of Strategy & External Affairs, Nicholas Bungay, said: “Our thanks to all who attended our event and made it so enjoyable. As we enter our sixth decade, Habinteg will continue to create accessible and inclusive homes and communities that promote disabled people’s independence.
“We encourage others to champion accessible housing by supporting the establishment of the accessible and adaptable standard as the baseline for all new homes across England and to call for that in a response to the Government’s open consultation on raising accessibility standards for new homes.”
Visit www.habinteg.org.uk/homecoalition for the Housing Made for Everyone (HoME) coalition’s simple consultation guide with suggested responses