Recent Government policies, such as vowing to build 300,000 new homes annually, are a start. But whilst this shows that baby steps are being taken to address the housing shortage, there is still a lack of affordable accommodation with disabled and elderly people often sidelined.
There are over 10 million people in the UK with a limiting illness, impairment or disability. There are also 12 million elderly. Yet just 9% of English homes currently provide the most basic accessibility features.
The Scottish Government is targeting 100,000 more affordable homes by 2032, with at least 70% described as social rent. Regulations urge 10% of the new social housing to be accessible for the elderly or those with a disability. A positive move but not a legal requirement. The numbers are even lower for the rest of the UK.
Westminster has vowed to build 180,000 affordable homes in the next five years, yet just 10% will be supported with inclusive design. It is not a legal requirement for new homes in the UK to be accessible and adaptable. Despite amendments to Building Regulations in 2010, they are listed merely as an ‘optional requirement’.
Those with accessibility issues would normally be supported by an Accessible Housing Register - yet over four out of five local authorities do not have a register. A study also found many lacked awareness of local properties that have the accessibility requirements for those with a disability.
With the UK population increasing 7%, but the number of council homes having fallen to the same percentage, it’s clear we are already in crisis.
So how did we get here?
It’s been estimated that since the 1950s Britain needs on average 250,000 new homes every year. The post-war boom of house-building peaked in the 1960s - roughly half of these were council-built social housing. Then the 1980 Housing Act changed everything. Urging the benefits and social status that owning your own home afforded, they were snapped up into private ownership. The private sector swelled and the amount of new social housing stalled and declined.
The introduction of ‘Buy-to-let’ mortgages further allowed regular people to build investment property portfolios, and twinned with the ever-increasing property values, regular families were being even further squeezed out.
The 2007 financial crisis then saw historically-low interest rates - a further appeal for prospective homeowners. Years of 45% tax relief on mortgage interest was also a factor.
This has fuelled a modern day where it’s increasingly difficult to get your foot on the property ladder without a significant deposit. The increasing cost of rent and living means people simply don’t have enough spare cash to save up for one. House prices are rocketing and so too are private rents.
So the cycle continues, meaning more people than ever before are unable to find suitable and affordable long-term accommodation.