There has been much talk in the media of late about the growing need for affordable housing.
What about the growing need for accessible housing?
New research has highlighted that there is a dire lack of suitable homes, whether in the private sector or social housing, to accommodate people with a disability.
Estimates put the current UK accessible housing stock at 5% of all homes. Disabled people represent at least 20% of the UK population: that’s a huge potential gap to be addressed! And with our ageing and increasingly obese (with all its associated implications) population, the need is only going to increase.
The research quotes examples where there has been a significant investment in time and money giving people rehabilitation and support to enable them to get out of hospital and into society, yet lack of suitable homes for them to move into means that effort is wasted.
There have been four Select Committee reports calling for national targets for accessible homes. There is a duty under the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 to consider the housing needs of disabled people. But few local authorities actually implement anything.
If targets are set, they can be achieved. Greater London, for example, insists that 10% of newbuilds are wheelchair accessible; as a result the area is proven to have lower average waiting times for accessible homes.
It isn’t hard to build a lifetime/ accessible home: level access, wider doorways, a ground floor WC, and potential to add a hoist to aid transfer from, particularly, bedroom to bathroom, are key features.
So come on developers: lead the way whatever sector you operate in, just slightly adjust your designs and build processes, and enable millions of people to get on with living life.
And come on Government: legislate for national targets, make accessible housing a legal requirement. It will pay off: it will help reduce the pressures on other public services- particularly NHS and social care- by enabling people to be in their own homes, and independent.