MHCLG is to consult on mandatory accessible housing standards in building regulations – ensuring new properties are built with good accessibility standards to reflect the needs of older and disabled people.
The commitment comes in the Spending Review with Government having been warned of an accessibility crisis.
And the Review also accounts for disabled adults to be direct beneficiaries from funding for adult social care services.
“This consultation reflects our long-standing call for all new homes to have higher access standards [and] shows us that the vital issue of accessible housing is not being left off the agenda,” said Habinteg CEO Sheron Carter.
“Our recent Insight report, A forecast for accessible homes, revealed a huge postcode lottery in the planned supply of new accessible homes, so it’s now more crucial than ever that we set a national policy that will create a level playing field and more certainty for developers.
“We look forward to further details on the consultation but hope consultation swiftly moves to action to improve the design standard for all new homes,” she said.
In July, 24housing revealed that Government does not collect data on the number of Local Plans which include a requirement for new homes to be accessible and adaptable.
Answering a written Commons question, the then Housing Minister Kit Malthouse confirmed that at present and despite warnings of an accessibility crisis, this data is not collected.
Fellow Tory Julia Lopez had asked what recent estimate had been made of the number of Local Plans, which include a requirement for new homes to be accessible and adaptable.
In his reply, Malthouse did reference the recent report by Habinteg suggesting that less than a third of all English local plans currently set specific requirements for a percentage of new homes to be built to accessible or adaptable standards.
A strengthening of government policy – through the revised National Planning Policy Framework published in July last year – has all local planning authorities expected to put in place specific policies to address the housing needs of older and disabled people.
Also strengthened was the policy approach to accessible housing, setting out an expectation that planning policies for housing should make use of government standards for accessible and adaptable housing.
In June, Habinteg warned of an ‘accessible homes crisis’ as research revealed that less than a quarter of homes built outside London by 2030 will be suitable for older and disabled people.
In a nationwide analysis of 322 local planning policies, the report found just 1% of homes outside London are set to be suitable for wheelchair users, despite 1.2 million wheelchair users currently residing in the UK.
Higher accessibility standards for new housing could help deliver up to 300,000 new accessible and adaptable homes every year – as the government acknowledges accommodation “injustices” endured by the disabled.
A pledge to consult over mandating higher accessibility standards came with government recognition of too many disabled people still living in unsuitable homes.
In one of her last policy initiatives as Prime Minister, Theresa May announced a new cross-government disability team and Equalities Hub to “break down barriers faced by the disabled”.
An all-party parliamentary group (APPG) has called for a national strategy on supported and specialist housing, with over two million older people living in poor-quality homes across England alone – and now costing the NHS £1.4bn every year.
Pushing the case for closer integration of housing, health, and care, the APPG for ageing and older people recommended government restores funding for national and local housing advice services, makes energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority, increases funding for adaptations and repairs, and works with PRS to allow for stock adaptations.