A coalition of charities and housing organisations is calling for the government to urgently tackle the UK’s accessible housing crisis by improving mandatory building standards.

The UK government is currently reviewing options to make new homes in England more accessible for older and disabled people, in a public consultation process which ends on December 1.

Housing Made for Everyone (HoME) is a coalition of ten organisations who have signed up to a shared vision and charter to review society’s approach to housing and ensure all new housing is built to be suitable for the changing needs of our ageing population and disabled people.

During the government’s consultation process HoME are urging the public to back their proposal for the ‘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. This includes Local Authorities reviewing their housing policies to adequately meet the needs of older and disabled people and housing associations and developers committing to provide high quality homes fit for the future.

A growing problem

Reports find that currently 91 per cent of homes do not provide the four access features for the lowest level of accessibility, meaning that the vast majority of homes are not even considered ‘visitable’. Currently it is estimated that a staggering 400,000 wheelchair users are living in homes that are deemed inaccessible.

As the population ages, this becomes an increasing problem. It is predicted that in just 20 years one in four people will be aged over 65. Records show that currently one in five people aged 65-69 need some form of help with daily activities such as cooking, washing, and using the toilet, and from the age of 80, this figure rises to more than half.

Over 90 per cent of older people live in mainstream housing rather than sheltered accommodation or care homes. Currently plans will allow for only one new accessible home for every 15 people over 65 by 2030.

Accessible homes

The HoME coalition which was founded by organisations including the Centre for Ageing Better, Age UK and the Chartered Institute for Housing, believes that everyone should be entitled to a home that keeps them healthy and safe and enables them to live the life they choose, no matter their ability, age or background. The idea is that an accessible home should be suitable for anyone at any stage of life meaning that homeowners can grow old in their homes without needing to move or make major adaptations.

Measures to make a home accessible can include features such as ramps rather than steps to enter a property, wider doorways and corridors to accommodate wheelchair access, or even the inclusion of a home lift to move between floors.

Call to the public

A YouGov poll shows that there is huge public support for accessible and better housing, with 72 per cent of people surveyed agreeing that homes should be built to be suitable for all ages and abilities. Then 33 per cent of respondents also said they would be encouraged to buy a property with accessible features such as handrails or walk-in showers.

HoME are hoping to harness the groundswell of support from the public, and are urging people to respond to the government’s consultation before the deadline. They say the consultation is a ‘critical opportunity to kick start a new age of better homes that will benefit us all’ and ‘raising accessibility standards for all new homes is an important step and one we must take as soon as possible’. HoME add that the ‘longer we leave it, the greater the task and the more damaging the consequences of inaction as many more people struggle in unsuitable homes’.