Local authorities facing shortage of accessible housing

A survey from the Centre for Ageing Better has shown that local authorities are facing a shortage of accessible housing, a problem made worse by some home builders' actions.

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

Of the local authorities that responded to the survey, 97 per cent aid their need for accessible homes will increase in the next 10 years, with a quarter already describing their need as severe.

The Centre for Ageing Better says that the biggest barrier to securing accessibility of new homes is arguments over viability (79 per cent), followed by challenges from developers to policies with higher accessibility standards (48 per cent). The survey found that only 21 per cent said that they’d be able to deliver the number of accessible homes needed without changes to national policy.  

According to the latest English Housing Survey, 91 per cent of homes do not provide even the lowest level of accessibility, leaving fewer than one in ten 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, as set out in the government’s consultation. 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. Other options on the table, which include taking no action, are unacceptable and will store up significant social and economic problems for local authorities.

Henry Smith, Senior Programme Manager for Homes, Centre for Ageing Better, said: “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.”