by Nirvana
A Business for Social Change
Cost Effective New Housing for the Elderly & Persons With Disabilites
Are the governments accessibility standards for new homes sufficient?

Are the governments accessibility standards for new homes sufficient?

Accessible housing means homes that are designed and built for everyone to be comfortable living in but are especially beneficial to older and disabled people. The aim is to create a safe and barrier-free living environment for as many people as possible.

Accessible homes can be any form of living arrangement. Typically, they are houses, flats, maisonettes or bungalows. A truly accessible home allows for comfortable and independent living. Those that may not thrive in a house built without accessibility in mind should be able to have carefree and easy living arrangements here.

The living arrangements should be designed to provide different levels of accessibility to suit different levels of need. There are adjustments that can be easily beneficial, such as wider halls and doors. Other such accessibility examples are a concrete ramp, the lowering of kitchen worktops, a stairlift, a bath lift or a grab rail.
These can all be added into regular housing, however, this is a very expensive change. Much easier, convenient and less expensive is a house with accessibility-friendly modifications.

Unfortunately, it seems as though the UK government has some catching up to do to ensure standards are kept high.

Back in 2020, The English Housing Survey (EHS) exposed that 91% of homes do not provide the four main features for even the lowest level of accessibility. This includes 400,000 wheelchair users.

Last year, one government agency vowed to spend £15 million to fund over 1,000 new accessibility-friendly family homes. However, these are all built to the basic M4(1) requirement, meaning wheelchair users could not live there long term.

Unfortunately, this is a common trend throughout the rest of the country.

The minimum accessibility standards regulations have yet to be addressed. M4(1) is currently the minimum mandatory regulation. This is classed as a ‘visitable’ dwelling and ensures basic facilities for a wheelchair user but not ‘age-friendly’ or ‘lifetime’ housing. Therefore, it’s of no great use to anybody requiring access needs living there.

M4(2) is ‘accessible and adaptable’, with M4(3) suitable for ‘wheelchair user dwelling’.

In addition to this, not enough homes are being built. At the current rate, one new accessible home is planned for every 15 people over 65 by 2030. This is despite the fact the number of people with a disability has risen 24% from 2009/10 to 14.1 million people in 2019/20.

In 2018, 84% of local authorities took part in a survey which exposed the fact they did not have sufficient data on the number of disabled people currently inappropriately housed.

In 2021, the government published a National Disability Strategy. In this, they announced 17,000 new homes, with none of them being built to accessibility standards. Despite the desperate need for government leadership, they instead decided to delegate such decisions to local authorities. With local authorities short on cash, it’s difficult to see them following a dissimilar lead.

Further, in 2020, the government published a Planning For The Future document, which laid out its plans for the future of housing. Yet, there was not a single mention of accessible housing.