Government urged to think ahead on accessible housing
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Development
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A housing provider specialising in accessible housing for disabled tenants has urged the government to think ahead on access standards for new homes.
Habinteg Housing Association final response to the Department for Communities and Local Government’s review of housing standards consultation raises concerns that the proposals, in their current form, do not sufficiently prioritise the development of accessible homes.
Habinteg’s main 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’.
• Cost benefits and viability – viability assessments must take into account the long term savings applicable to health, social care and housing adaptation budgets.
• 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.
• 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 some local authorities may be forced to drop existing higher quality solutions.
• 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's chief executive, Paul Gamble, said: “We welcome the government’s acknowledgement that accessible housing plays an important role in people’s lives and the success of communities, in particular that their review has drawn upon both Habinteg’s Lifetime Homes Standard and our Wheelchair Housing Design Standard.
"The need for accessible and adaptable homes is growing and this is a golden opportunity to create standards that help us deliver more of them. With the right framework and regulation, a national set of standards could make a big impact on the number of accessible homes built; helping to make sure that our investment in new housing reaps the long term benefits that communities need and the public purse demands.
"Our response to the consultation makes the case constructively for homes that are future-proof, fit for purpose and accessible for all.”
Disability campaigner Sir Bert Massie CBE, a former chair of the Disability Rights Commission and former Habinteg board member, added:
“Britain has an ageing population and will face the increasing costs of providing care and support for older people. This could be provided in costly care homes or hospital but for many it would be better if they could stay at home. They will need housing with accessibility features.
"The government needs to deliver housing standards that are forward-looking and recognise that poor housing standards have an impact on people’s lives and lead to increased public expenditure.”