Happy New Year! This is a special year for us as 2020 marks our 50th anniversary. Over the last half century, Habinteg has worked tirelessly to create, manage and promote inclusively designed homes. We are proud to be recognised as the UK's leading expert in accessible housing.
I joined Habinteg in December 2017 and my two years here have flown by. I feel honoured to lead an organisation that is a truly unique with a distinct social purpose. I have enjoyed meeting many tenants, hearing their stories and seeing first-hand just how their lives have changed since moving into an accessible home. It has really opened my eyes to how important a suitable home is for everyone’s independence.
When Habinteg first started out in 1970 the founders wanted to create integrated communities where disabled and non-disabled people could live together as neighbours. Back then disabled people had few options. There were residential institutions or the family home and that was pretty much it. The notion of living independent and fulfilling lives was considered radical and utopian. Now 50 years on, there has been a lot of progress in terms of disabled people’s equality but despite changing attitudes and increased legal protections, too many disabled people are still struggling to find homes that meet their needs.
Since our first scheme was opened by Prime Minister Edward Heath in 1973, Habinteg has come a long way. We now have more than 3,300 properties across the country and have welcomed thousands of households over that time - 224 tenants joined us in 2019 alone. One tenant, Petula Bone, had been living in an inaccessible property for over 20 years before moving into her new wheelchair accessible home.
We have hit many big milestones since 1970, including:
- Innovating some of the UK’s first inclusive accessible housing;
- Contributing to the development of the Lifetime Homes Standard and producing the Habinteg Wheelchair Housing Design Guide;
- Seeing national building regulations incorporate a modified version of the Lifetime Homes standard and the Wheelchair Housing Design Guide as optional standards for new homes
- Seeing London embrace the M4 category 2 adaptable/accessible standard (based on Lifetime Homes) as a mandatory design requirement for all new homes, with a proportion built to M4 category 3 wheelchair user dwelling standard; and
- Helping to change the law to embed consideration of the housing needs of older and disabled people in national policy.
Our campaigning has played a part in influencing the government to announce that a new ‘National Strategy for Disabled People’ will be published in 2020 and we’re eager to see what this holds for housing. We hope that it will be a watershed moment, leading to an inclusive society where everyone has a home that is right for their needs
Age and disability are two things that are likely to affect us all. The UK needs to create many more accessible homes to meet the needs of older and disabled people right now as well as preparing ourselves for a huge increase in future demand.
As we enter our sixth decade, Habinteg will continue to create accessible and inclusive homes and communities that promote independence and we’ll continue to encourage others to do the same.
Our 51st year will be a year of celebrations and campaigning activities bringing together our tenants, our staff and like-minded supporters and advocates across a whole range of sectors. Please stay in touch throughout the year by visiting our website and social media channels to see what we are up to and how you can take part – we’d love to have you involved.