Taking a fresh look at accessible housing demand
New research from Habinteg and Papworth Trust makes the renewed case for building more accessible homes - the organisations' respective chief executives, Paul Gamble and Vicky McDermott, guest blog for CIH.
Conducted by expert teams at the London School of Economics (LSE) and Ipsos MORI, our research proves the real demand for accessible homes and challenges assumptions about the potential for disabled people to buy their own home.
The hidden housing market
There are 11.9 million disabled people in the country and as a society we are ageing rapidly. Yet a look at our housing stock shows that only six per cent of it provides the four minimum access features that allow a disabled person to easily visit - let alone stay the night or live in on a longer term basis.
So when 1.8 million disabled people have an accessible housing need and 19 per cent of the British public most favour moving to a property designed or adapted to enable them to live independently in later life, there is a challenge that needs to be addressed. Of those 1.8 million disabled people who require an accessible home, 56 per cent are home owners, with 39 per cent having incomes in the top half of the income distribution. Government policy, local authority implementation, developer motivation and estate agent knowledge could help meet demand.
The government has rightly acknowledged the strategic importance of meeting the demand for accessible homes, bringing 'optional' housing standards for higher levels of access into building regulations for the first time in October. We question whether 'optional' standards will be widely adopted and ask the government to instead press local authorities to insist on 'Part M category 2' of building regulations (broadly equivalent to the 'Lifetime homes' standard) as a default in their local plans. We acknowledge these are good standards and we want to see them adopted widely.
Accessibility benefits everyone
The benefits of accessible homes are not only experienced by disabled people. Their non-disabled neighbours, whether it be the couple with small children, a young professional having furniture delivered to their first home, or an active retiree grandparent - can all benefit from the features of inclusively designed homes.
Meanwhile, the positive impact of meeting the housing needs of disabled people can reach beyond health, wellbeing and employment prospects, to the wider community and savings for public services. Disabled people living in inaccessible homes are four times more likely to be unemployed, while a strong link between health and housing sectors relies fundamentally on the accessibility and adaptability of the homes available.
We want developers to look again at their target markets and products. Are they missing out on a significant opportunity?
We need developers, planners and health and social care commissioners to take note of the desire of the public to maintain independence in mainstream housing and communities as they age or develop needs for care and support.
We would support government departments to collaborate to investigate the relationship between unmet need for accessible housing and being out of work. As part of the government drive to reduce the employment gap for disabled people, understanding the role that appropriate housing play will be crucial.
We’ll require an improvement to our national data resources if we are to respond effectively to the nation’s housing needs. Disregarding the needs of families with disabled children from the official statistics is a missed opportunity to match housing need with accurate, evidence based plans.
We hope that this research is the beginning of a broader debate about how accessible homes should feature in the decision-making processes of developers and policy-makers, ensuring more homes become accessible, affordable and available.