Access must be top priority in delivery of new homes
Published by David Halliwell for Habinteg Housing Association in Housing and also in Health, Local Government
Habinteg’s draft policy response to housing review calls for accessibility and regulation
Government proposals to reform technical standards for new homes must prioritise accessibility and be supported by strong regulation. Habinteg, the UK’s leading expert in accessible housing design, supports its comments with a draft response to the consultation, published today.
Habinteg Housing Association is a champion of accessible housing and inclusive neighbourhoods through the Lifetime Homes standard and Wheelchair Housing Design standard. Informed by their expertise, Habinteg’s response seeks to ensure that more accessible homes will be built as a result of the review. The response answers questions posed in the consultation to offer solutions that ensure this outcome.
The impact of an ageing population demands that new homes meet the future needs of the population. We will see increasing numbers of older people living with impairments or long term health conditions giving rise to accessible housing need. Existing unmet need for wheelchair accessible housing will similarly be affected by the outcome.
In summary, Habinteg’s concerns are:
- Access as default – accessible, flexible housing (‘Level 2 standard’ within the review and similar in content to the Lifetime Homes Standard) should be the default option for new housing. Housing authorities should have to demonstrate and evidence where it is not needed if they push to ‘opt out’.
- Standards and regulation – proper regulation and enforcement of new standards will be critical to ensure the required increase in accessible housing. Level 2 standards adopted by local authorities as the default standard for new homes across all tenures should be integrated into and enforced by Building Regulations.
- Cost benefits and viability - current proposals focus too narrowly on short term build and production costs taking no account of long term savings applicable to health, social care and housing adaptation budgets.
- Limitations on local authorities – any national standards should be a minimum requirement, allowing for additional features and further innovation where needed. If standards are not sufficiently demanding local authorities may be forced to drop higher quality solutions currently in use.
- Space – the case for a minimum space standard should be examined in its own right. Though related to some extent, access standards are a different technical consideration.
- Equality impact – the proposals must be assessed for equality impact with this properly evidenced as part of the review.
Habinteg Chief Executive Paul Gamble said:
“Whilst we have some points of technical feedback, our major concerns are around the wider policy framework. Effective housing policy will be crucial to meet the needs of the UK’s changing and ageing population. The sector must engage with this consultation and take account of the needs and views of people who stand to be affected by the review of access standards. Our draft policy response aims to galvanise a strong discussion and help navigate what is a complex and often technical set of proposals.
“The need for accessible and adaptable homes will not diminish and for us this review presents the opportunity to improve our housing standards. Fundamentally, the question is simple – will this review increase the supply of accessible housing? We’ll be continuing to develop our response over the coming weeks as we hear more from sector colleagues and consumers.”
To view Habinteg’s initial policy and technical responses to the consultation as well as a summary, please use the link: www.habinteg.org.uk/responses