Access all areas
Just 7% of our country’s housing stock is accessible.
I’ve seen up close the impact this accessible housing deficit is having on disabled people across the country, with more concerning implications coming if we don’t tackle this issue as our population ages.
So I will urgently decree that all new homes are built to accessible and easily adaptable standards. This is not revolutionary.
The Part M (4) Category 2 standards (similar to Lifetime Homes) are already in national building regulations, and are being implemented as a default in London with a proportion built to higher (fully wheelchair accessible) standards.
Greater Manchester and Liverpool, amongst others, are poised to follow suit in their draft local plans. It just makes sense to build homes that are accessible for everyone and that can be easily adaptable for life’s changing needs.
We can do this and make a lasting legacy before breakfast, ok?
Watch this space
Let’s also improve the accessibility and inclusivity of our public spaces.
It’s unacceptable that many older and disabled people can’t get into and around shops, transport, offices, entertainment venues and even toilet facilities.
Place-making and effective planning policy is absolutely crucial.
A culture change in business, politics and public attitudes is required so that we don’t lock out anyone from our better society.
So all new and existing public places will be subject to scrutiny by access professionals, with greater education and training on the needs of different people.
Stand and deliver
Solving the housing crisis is a top issue for voters, so let’s match that with raising its priority in government and parliament.
I’ll establish a properly resourced Department for Housing with a secretary of state and junior ministers charged solely with delivering more homes.
The department will also lead on joining up projects in which housing could play a more pivotal role, including health and social care, employment and education.
The Housing Select Committee will be packed with cross-party experts in Parliament, and an advisory board of sector expertise will be established to oversee the implementation of a high-quality, mixed tenure, long-term strategic housing policy.
A fixed-term for good housing ministers is an attractive option too.
From start to Finnish
Ok, forgive my populism, but we’re all going on a trip to Finland.
Aside from being the most beautiful country I have ever been to, there’s lots to learn from the Finns on housing, homelessness and social inclusion.
From a national ‘Housing First’ policy to address homelessness, to properly planning for the housing demands of older people within active, inclusive communities, to students designing the best accessible housing in Europe, Finland leads the way.
We can learn so much and replicate many of the innovations here in the UK. So let us research what works beyond our borders and learn from best practice wherever it may be found, sharing our innovations and success widely while remembering our social purpose.
Housing professionals can help make the world a better place.