28 Jul 2021

Disability strategy misses opportunity on accessible housing

Today, the government have published their National Disability Strategy, which aims to improve the everyday lives of disabled people.

Unfortunately, the strategy doesn’t go far enough to address this. Instead, it commits the Ministry of Housing Community and Local Government to:

  • Confirm plans to improve the framework to deliver accessible new homes by December 2021
  • Commission new research to develop statutory guidance on meeting Building Regulations covering access to and use of buildings.

The strategy underlines the investment government is making to boost supply of supported housing, but the majority of older and disabled people live in mainstream housing, so we must ensure that higher accessibility standards apply across all new homes. This is all the more pressing, given that only nine per cent of existing homes have basic accessibility features (making homes visitable rather than liveable).

In response to the strategy, Sarah Davis, CIH senior policy and practice officer said:

“The experience of the pandemic has reinforced the critical role that having a decent and safe home has to our health and wellbeing in all aspects of our lives. But the experience of many disabled people falls short of that. The number of people living in a home not adapted to suit their needs is rising and we are still building homes with very basic accessibility standards. We need swift action to address this, so we urge government to move quickly and make higher accessibility standards mandatory for all new homes.

The ongoing investment in disabled facilities grant is critical to maintain, given the low level of accessibility in existing homes. As well as improving guidance, government must ensure that councils have the capacity and resources they need to deliver adaptations through DFGs, to meet growing demand from disabled and older people.”

As part of the Housing Made for Everyone (HoMEs) coalition, we’re calling for ‘accessible and adaptable’ design standard (set out in volume 1 of the Building Regulations M4 Category 2) to be made the mandatory baseline for all new homes; for local authorities to ensure their housing policies adequately reflect the needs of older and disabled people; and for housing associations and developers to commit to providing high quality homes fit for the future.