MPs from the Communities and Local Government Select Committee meet tenants and learn about the integrated accessibility features of their Lifetime Homes.
Chair of House of Commons Select Committee for Communities and Local Government Clive Betts MP and Committee members Helen Hayes MP and Liz Twist MP visited Goodrich Court, Habinteg’s inclusive housing scheme in Hounslow, on Tuesday 14 November.
The MPs were shown around the accessible and adaptable features of tenants’ homes and communal areas of the scheme. A member Habinteg’s consultancy team, Centre for Accessible Environments (CAE), was on hand to answer questions and provide technical information during the visit. The Communities and Local Government Select Committee are currently reviewing evidence submitted to their inquiry into Housing for Older People, to which Habinteg’s Vice-Chair Andrew Gibson presented oral evidence on Monday 13 November.
Habinteg’s Goodrich Court development demonstrates the highest standards in inclusively designed affordable housing. It provides 16 homes, of which 12 are built to the Lifetime Homes Standard, designed to enable adaptations to be made at minimal cost – supporting the changing needs of individuals and families at different stages of their lives. The other four homes are built to wheelchair standards and are designed to meet the requirements of wheelchair users, with features such as adjustable kitchen counters and wet rooms.
This scheme clearly expresses Habinteg’s founding principle – developing places to live where disabled and non-disabled people live as neighbours in integrated communities.
Habinteg Vice-Chair, Andrew Gibson, said:
“Building homes to higher standards, such as Lifetime Homes or Part M(4) Category 2 of building regulations, makes it easier to make adaptations in future. For example, if you try to put a grab rail into the bathroom of a home built to lower standards it’s likely to fall off the wall when you put any weight on it. With a higher standard home the infrastructure is already there – it's quick and easy and can have a significant impact on the accessibility of a home.
By designing homes to be adaptable and accessible in the first instance, the costs of making future adaptations is greatly reduced. It makes sense to develop homes that are versatile, cost-effective and suitable for a range of requirements, and we feel that building to higher standards achieves this.”
Since 2004, new homes built in London have been required to meet basic accessibility criteria through the Lifetime Homes standard. These inclusive design principles have now been included in building regulations as Part M(4) Category 2 (broadly equivalent to the Lifetime Homes standard) and is the access standard now referred to in the London Plan. However, outside of London, building to Part M(4) Category 2 is optional, not mandatory. Habinteg argue that this accessible, adaptable standard should be implemented as the default nationally, creating future housing stock that is futureproof and fit for a range of requirements.
CAE’s Accessible Housing and Inclusive Environments Specialist, Michelle Horn, said:
“It’s fantastic that the Committee have taken the time to see for themselves what inclusive and flexible homes look like. This is particularly important in the context of their inquiry into housing for older people, as we think this is a big part of the solution to the challenges of housing and an ageing population.”
Chair of House of Commons Select Committee for Communities and Local Government, Clive Betts, said:
“Most older people live in mainstream housing, but there is a real difficulty of adapting these homes to meet a person’s needs as they grow older. The Communities and Local Government Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into Housing for Older People and has taken this opportunity to visit a Lifetime Home to understand how they are built to meet different needs and how they can be adapted.
We welcomed the opportunity to speak to residents and find out about their experiences living in a Lifetime Home. We were also able to speak to Habinteg staff about the efforts involved in making the homes more adaptable and future proof."