New evidence shows councils lack plans to meet accessible housing demand | Latest news

New evidence shows councils lack plans to meet accessible housing demand

Habinteg logo and tagling: Accessible homes, independent lives

Just 3% of English local authorities outside London have policies to deliver and monitor the number of accessible homes built.

Most councils in England do not have plans for the accessible housing demands of local people. New data released by Habinteg today shows that just a handful of local authorities have plans in place that require developers to build much needed accessible homes.

Information obtained by freedom of information requests returned by 266 councils (82% of English local authorities) asked if councils had planning policies to build to the accessible Lifetime Homes standard and, if they did, how many homes have been built in the last six years. 

With 1.8 million disabled people across the country having an accessible housing need and just 7% of homes in England fully accessible, news that most councils are not properly prepared to address this national shortage will come as a shock to many older and disabled people. Demand for accessible and easily adaptable Lifetime Homes will further increase as the UK population ages, so solving the accessible housing deficit will need to become a national priority.

Since 2004, the London Plan under successive mayoral administrations has regulated to ensure that all homes are built to the Lifetime Homes standard with 10% to higher wheelchair accessible standards. These figures exclude the 32 London Boroughs for this reason, however, when they are all included the figure is just 8.2% of councils with robust accessible housing plans.

Despite the trend in the rest of the country, some leading councils are delivering best practice on accessible homes planning, monitoring and delivery. Councils such as Leeds, Reading, Sevenoaks, Leicester, Peterborough and Eastleigh are providing a strong example to others of what can be done within long-term planning frameworks. Habinteg is celebrating local authorities who are getting it right and prioritising accessible homes by praising the best councils around.

Lifetime Homes are ordinary homes designed to incorporate 16 Design Criteria that make them accessible and easily adaptable and can be universally applied to new homes at minimal cost. The Government’s new higher accessible housing standard, Part M (4) Category 2, is broadly equivalent to Lifetime Homes and features in the building regulations as an optional standard. Local authorities have a duty to produce a local plan setting out their approach to new development by 2017. With much work to do on these plans, Habinteg is campaigning for local authorities to make the optional Category 2 their default housing standard.

The benefits of accessible homes are not only experienced by disabled people. Whether it be the couple with small children, a young professional having furniture delivered to their first home, or an active retiree grandparent - all can benefit from the features of inclusively designed homes. Health, wellbeing and employment prospects are improved by having an accessible place to live and significant savings for health and social care budgets can be achieved by linking health and housing sectors more firmly.

Habinteg Chief Executive Paul Gamble said:

“It’s time that all local authorities follow London’s lead to meet the inclusive housing needs of local people. With many councils yet to formalise their local plans ahead of next year’s deadline, there’s a clear opportunity to address the significant shortage of accessible homes to rent and buy nationwide and meet projected demand. 

“The Government has rightly placed enhanced accessible housing standards into the building regulations for the first time but unfortunately the default is inadequate for many disabled people. While the higher standards remain purely optional, levels of inaccessible housing could rise as the population ages.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. From Leeds to London, Eastleigh to Leicester there are councils that are doing the right thing. They are planning to build accessible homes and measuring the numbers built to ensure their policies are delivered. We’re keen to work with local authorities on this and urge all councillors and officers to look to these exemplar local authorities to ensure their local plans properly consider demand for accessible housing.”

An interactive map is available showing the FOI data http://bit.ly/2bh80vj

All local authorities will receive Habinteg’s ‘Scrutiny Toolkit’ which provides information and data about implementing the government’s new accessible housing standards. The toolkit is available here: http://www.habinteg.org.uk/scrutinytoolkit