Concerned about the review of housing standards and the optional requirement for accessible homes within the proposed building regulations, Habinteg, as well as our partner organisations campaigning for more accessible homes to be built (including Age UK, Building Research Establishment, Town and Country Planning Association, Disability Rights UK and Leonard Cheshire) sent a letter to the Times highlighting the issues. Below is the letter in full - a slightly summarised version was published in the Times on Friday 31 October.
As we approach the consultation deadline for the review of housing standards (Friday 7 November), we can only hope that the review takes note of our technical response and policy briefing summarising the seven important issues for access within the housing standards review. For a full background on the review, read our Policy pages.
Copy of full letter for publication: exclusively to The Times
Ref: Review of Housing Standards October 2014
We write to express our concern that the Government’s Housing Standards Review could reduce the number of new homes built that meet the needs of disabled and older people.
Whilst the review places the design of accessible homes within regulation for the first time, the impact of this move is dangerously undermined by the discretionary nature of the new standards which could increase public spending in the long run.
Among other recommendations the review proposes ‘accessible, adaptable’ design requirements based on the Lifetime Homes Standard. Labelled ‘Category 2’ this standard is proposed as optional, only to be specified by local authorities that have provided extensive and costly evidence to prove the need. Any such plans will also be subject to viability testing. It’s vital that in assessing viability, authorities have the necessary resources and mechanisms to strike a balance between short term return on development and the potential longer term savings in health and social care spending.
Accessibly designed homes can support independence, help prevent falls, reduce length of hospital stays and delay costly and unwanted moves to residential care. A night in hospital costs the NHS around £273 whilst a week’s residential care averages £550. The Government estimates that a three bedroom home built to their proposed Category 2 costs just £521 more to build than its less accessible equivalent, less than one week’s bill for residential care.
There is a wide consensus on the urgent need to ready ourselves for the health, housing and social care needs of our ageing population and there are already an estimated 11.6 million disabled people in Britain. Mainstream developments must deliver accessible, adaptable homes if we are to rise to this challenge. Specialist housing will continue to serve only a small proportion of the growing market of older and disabled people.
The government should seize this opportunity to plan long term and make Category 2 the minimum design requirement. Failing to do so will seriously jeopardise the supply of the very kind of homes we need right at the moment we need them most.
Paul Gamble, Chief Executive, Habinteg,
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director, Age UK
Kate Henderson, Chief Executive, TCPA
Liz Sayce, Chief Executive, Disability Rights UK
Gavin Dunn, Director BREEAM
Clare Pelham, Chief Executive, Leonard Cheshire Disability