William Eichler 18 November 2020

Charity calls for new standards for accessible housing

A charity for elderly people is calling for national building standards to be raised to be ‘accessible and adaptable’ as a minimum baseline as a new survey reveals there is a shortage of accessible housing.

A survey by the Centre for Ageing Better, which received responses from 32 councils in England, found that 97% said their need for accessible homes will increase in the next 10 years, with a quarter already describing their need as severe.

The biggest barrier to securing accessibility of new homes is arguments over viability (79%), the poll respondents said, followed by challenges from developers to policies with higher accessibility standards (48%).

Local authorities set out plans of how many accessible homes are needed, once they can demonstrate demand in the area. However, via viability assessments, developers can argue that accessible housing is prohibitively expensive, and negotiate that homes are built to the lowest allowable standards.

According to the latest English Housing Survey, 91% of homes do not provide even the lowest level of accessibility, leaving fewer than one in 10 homes suitable for older or disabled people to visit, never mind live in.

The Centre for Ageing Better, as part of the Housing Made for Everyone (HoME) coalition, is calling for national building standards to be raised to be ‘accessible and adaptable’ as a minimum baseline.

If ‘accessible and adaptable’ homes become the new minimum standard then this will create a level playing field as all home builders will be factoring in the same costs and buying land with the same assumptions.

Only 21% of the councils responding to the survey said that they would be able to deliver the number of accessible homes needed without changes to national policy. The charity emphasises that this is particularly problematic in the face of an ageing population.

Henry Smith, senior programme manager for homes, Centre for Ageing Better, commented: ‘The need for accessible and adaptable homes is urgent and growing larger all the time. The problem is that our homes are currently designed with only the first users in mind, not the dozens of households and individuals who will use it across its lifespan.

‘The Government must act now to make sure that the homes we build now are fit for the future. Accessible housing will improve the health and wellbeing of millions of people, allowing us to remain independent and in our own homes for longer. This consultation offers a real opportunity to improve the lives of older and disabled people now and for generations to come.’

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