What does the National Strategy for Disabled People mean for accessible housing? | Latest news

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What does the National Strategy for Disabled People mean for accessible housing?

The new National Strategy for Disabled People published on Wednesday 28 July 2021, makes eight commitments on accessible homes. Habinteg responds to each of these commitments below:

1. MHCLG will confirm plans to improve the framework to deliver accessible new homes by December 2021.

Habinteg want to see the building regulations ‘accessible and adaptable’ standard established as the minimum requirement for all new homes, as well as a national expectation for a proportion of all homes to be built to wheelchair accessible standards. However, the strategy stops short of these steps.

MHCLG Minister, Lord Greenhalgh, committed in the House of Lords that the Government's response to the accessible homes consultation would be published by March 2021. We now call on the Government to ensure that, by December 2021, the mandatory baseline for all new homes is raised.

2. MHCLG is commissioning new research to develop the statutory guidance on meeting Building Regulations, covering access to and use of buildings (Approved Document M).

Additional research must not delay the building regulations ‘accessible and adaptable’ standard being established as the minimum requirement for all new homes. 

Establishing a set proportion of all homes to be built to wheelchair accessible standards should not require additional research. There are 400,000 wheelchair users in England living in homes that are neither accessible nor adapted. Older and disabled people want to see action taken now.

3. MHCLG have committed that 10% of the 180,000 homes built through the £11.5million Affordable Homes Programme 2021-2026 will be for supported housing.  

The current requirement for strategic bids in the 2021-2026 programme is already to build a minimum of 10% supported housing as part of the funding criteria attached to these programmes. Organisations involved often need additional help. We know, having spoken to developers, that supported housing can be a challenge to get off the ground due to funding streams available. The service charges for supported housing can be much higher, for example. 

The viability model for supported housing has been changed in recent years. This model can be challenging, which is why so many housing associations have moved away from supported housing and sold the supported schemes they owned.

4. DHSC working with MHCLG will invest £71 million in the CASSH fund in financial year 2021-2022 (Care and Support Specialised Housing).

This will be helpful for the people that need it, but homes built need to be accessible and adaptable to be useful.

Commenting, Jeremy Porteus, CEO of the Housing Learning & Improvement Network, has said: “The CASSH injection along with the Affordable Housing Programme allocations are a welcome capital investment to boost the specialist and supported housing sector. However, there also needs to be firm commitments to guarantee revenue funding for care and support to ensure any planned new schemes are operationally viable and sustainable.”

5. MHCLG will make the new Shared Ownership model including the reduced 10% minimum stake, available to disabled people buying a home under the HOLD scheme.

The HOLD scheme has been available to disabled people for some time but has had very minimal take up due to poor promotion. Habinteg’s Insight Group member and wheelchair user, James Lee, told us that he tried to use the scheme before, and further work is needed to ensure that the information shared is accessible to disabled people.

Reducing the minimum stake will be helpful but the Government need to do much more to promote this scheme if they want it to benefit more people. 

The general move to invest more of the affordable homes budget in homes for shared ownership will only benefit disabled people if these funds are conditional on the accessibility of the properties being built.

6. Following an independent review of the disabled facilities grant (DFG) published in December 2018 MHCLG and DHSC will jointly publish new government guidance for local authorities in England on effective delivery of the £573 million DFG during 2021.

Having waited three years since the independent review, this commitment has been a long time coming. People requiring home adaptations right now need help and clarity about their future. We’re awaiting this new guidance keenly and hope that it will indeed help to improve the local delivery of DFG. We are keen to now see clear timelines on exactly when the guidance will be issued. 

7. The cabinet office will progress work to require landlords to make reasonable adjustments to the common parts of leasehold and common hold homes. A consultation is planned for 2021.

We do not believe that further consultation is necessary to bring this duty into force: 1 in 3 disabled people live in the private rented sector (EHRC 2018).

The action on the duty under the Equality Act 2010, which requires landlords to allow adaptations to ‘common parts’ has been long awaited.

Habinteg identified adaptations to common parts as an issue in 2013. See our report Meeting the housing needs of disabled people: A current and emerging issue study.

The EHRC later made recommendations on this in 2018 in their report Housing and disabled people: Britain’s hidden crisis which says:

“The Equality Act 2010 provided for a new requirement, in Section 36 and Schedule 4, for disability-related alterations to be made to the common parts of let residential premises, or premises owned on a common hold basis; however, the provisions have not yet been brought into force anywhere in Britain.”

8. MHCLG has commissioned new research to develop robust evidence to inform policy in England on the means of escape from buildings, care homes and specialised housing for disabled people. This will conclude by autumn 2021.

As a social landlord and as an organisation promoting accessibility, we welcome this commitment. 

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