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New coalition to tackle ‘timebomb’ in lack of suitable housing

New coalition of high-profile campaigning organisations and housing associations demands action to build homes fit for ageing population and disabled people.

  • Campaigners predict ‘dangerous shortage’ of suitable homes in the years to come, with only one new accessible home to be built for every 15 people over the age of 65 by 2030
  • As Parliament dissolves, open letter from the Housing Made for Everyone (HoME) coalition calls on the next government to make all new homes accessible and adaptable.

Ten organisations from across the housing and charity sectors are today warning of a crisis in the provision of suitable housing for older and disabled people as they launch a new coalition to campaign for accessible homes.

As parliament dissolves ahead of a general election, Housing Made for Everyone (HoME) has published an open letter calling on the next government to take greater action to secure housing suitable for all.

Recent research showed that less than half of local housebuilding plans in England included provision for accessible homes. Meanwhile the number of households headed by someone aged 65 and over has increased by more than a million since 2010/11. By 2030, projected figures suggest that there will be just one new accessible home built for every 15 people over the age of 65.

Previous commitments to consult on the mandatory building regulations for new homes have not been acted on. The HoME coalition is calling on the next government to urgently consult to ensure that all new homes are built to Building Regulations, Volume 1, M4, Category 2 standards, meaning that they have basic accessibility features that make them suitable for a range of occupants, and can be easily adapted to meet further requirements.

Sheron Carter, Chief Executive at Habinteg, which co-chairs the coalition, said: 

“Recent research by Habinteg reveals that most people in Britain are not able to welcome a wheelchair user into their home due to poor access. This is the limiting reality of our current housing stock. So with increasing rates of disability and an ageing population it’s critical that new homes are built to standards that provide greater accessibility and adaptability. Unless we do this we’ll be running into a whole new type of housing crisis in the years to come.

“We’re heartened to see so many high profile organisations joining forces to press for change on such a crucial issue.  We can and should be building homes to be inclusive of all.”

Anna Dixon, Chief Executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, which co-chairs the coalition, said:

“Too many people are today living in homes that limit their independence, as we face a dangerous shortage of homes that are accessible and adaptable. Whilst it’s not inevitable, the likelihood is that most of us will experience disability or difficulties with activities of daily living at some point in our later life. And with more of us living for longer, this dire lack of accessible homes represents a ticking timebomb.

“Urgent action is needed to ensure we are building homes fit for the future, so that more of us are able to stay in our homes for longer and remain safe and independent.

“As we build the homes of tomorrow, it’s crucial that every brick laid today is part of the solution. Central government, local authorities and developers all have a role to play in ensuring that the homes of tomorrow are safe, well-designed and flexible.”

The HoME coalition has today launched a charter to transform new housing, including recommendations for central and local government, estate agents, and developers. The 7 steps (listed in full below) include a higher regulatory baseline for accessibility of all new homes; better data on the availability of accessible homes; and bold policies on planning for accessible housing from Local Authorities.

  • We believe that central Government should set a higher regulatory baseline for accessibility of all new homes (M4 Category 2), and, where need can be demonstrated for M4 Category 3 (wheelchair user), the Government should lower the current high bar needed to introduce relevant planning policies. This will provide a level policy playing field across the country and the certainty that developers want, enabling them to build homes that meet the future needs of our ageing population. 
  • Central Government should collate and make publicly available data from every planning authority on the number of new homes built to each of the Categories set out in Approved Document M4 Volume one (access to and use of buildings), alongside sufficiently resourcing planning authorities to effectively monitor this.
  • Local Authorities should be bold and confident in their planning policies for accessible housing, utilising MHCLG guidance and best practice approaches to evidencing need. 
  • Homes England, in line with action already taken by the Greater London Authority, should give priority to current development bids for homes that meet M4 Category 2 standards. These should also include a number of Category 3 wheelchair accessible properties. If necessary, the additional costs should be recognised in the Value for Money assessment and grant awarded for affordable housing.
  • Local Authorities should review and keep up to date with the accessibility of housing in their area in preparation for an accessible housing database that will make finding the right home easier for people with specific requirements.
  • Estate Agents and their membership body ARLA should work with the Government and others to create and deliver standard accessibility ratings, similar to the environmental rating, which is displayed for every home sold.
  • The home building industry should join our call for legislative change for higher accessibility standards. They should proactively seek out good practice among their members and disseminate this widely to encourage greater engagement from members who don’t yet see accessible homes as good business.

The open letter, vision and charter can be viewed in full here

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