England is in dire need of more housing. The government has responded with a variety of initiatives aiming to increase and speed up supply, with the ambitious aim of delivering 300,000 new homes per year.
However, as our population ages and rates of disability increase, it is clear that to meet housing needs adequately, it is vital that we ensure the accessibility and adaptability of new homes is sufficient to meet the needs of our diverse population. Without this, disabled and older people will be increasingly excluded from ordinary aspects of daily living with negative consequences for individuals, families, communities and public services.
At present only 7% of our homes in England provide the four basic accessibility criteria to be deemed ‘visitable’ according to the English Housing Survey. Yet there are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK, with numbers continuing to rise. The NHS estimates there are 1.2m wheelchair users in the UK. Failing to address the deficit in the number of accessible and adaptable homes would mean storing up a housing crisis of a different kind if the new homes we build are not able to meet the needs of the population both now and in the future.
The analysis that Habinteg has carried out and presents in this report builds a picture of the extent to which local plans in England are set to deliver homes fit for the future.
Less than a third of the local plans analysed set out a requirement to use current accessible housing standards.
During this study 322 draft and adopted local plans were identified and reviewed. The analysis shows that:
- Less than half of all plans (138) set a specific requirement for a proportion of new homes to meet any form of accessible housing standards.
- Less than a third (96) of all plans set requirements for a proportion of new homes to be constructed to the M4(2) or M4(3) standards
- Less than a fifth (56) of all plans set a requirement for a proportion of new homes to be constructed to M4(3) Wheelchair user dwelling standard.
- Of the 138 plans that set requirements in England almost a third, (42 plans) specify older standards for accessible housing
Having reviewed our findings and taken account of the challenges faced by local planning authorities, Habinteg are calling for action at both a national and local level.
Habinteg is calling on the government to:
- Set the ‘accessible adaptable’ standard - M4(2) Category 2 as the new mandatory baseline, as it is in London.
- Ensure the Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) issue new guidance to local planning authorities on how they should reflect the housing needs of older and disabled people in their plans as set out in the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 – which has not yet been issued.
Habinteg is calling on Local Authorities to:
- Set a defined percentage of new homes to be built to current accessible standards