Campaigners Criticise Lack Of New Accessible Homes

Disability campaigners have strongly criticised government plans to build 17,000 new homes across England, saying that none of them will be built to adequate accessibility standards. The Disability News Service (DNS) reports that although funding for over 160 new projects has been announced, none of them will meet the M4 (2) Standard.

Despite widespread concerns that an aging population will not be able to remain living independently in their own homes in future decades, and the current difficulties experienced by those with limited mobility in finding suitable properties to buy or rent, there appears to be little effort by government to address the problem.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) confirmed to the DNS that none of the homes in the new proposals would be built to M4 (2) or M4 (3) requirements. These standards were designed for inclusive provision of access to visitors and residents of the building, including wheelchair users.

An MHCLG spokesperson said: “The number of accessible homes has nearly doubled in a decade and we have recently consulted on ways of improving the accessibility of new homes. Councils are best placed to decide how much accessible housing is needed in their area, and set these requirements in their Local Plans.”

In response the statement, disability campaigner Fleur Perry said that the new housing plans represented a missed opportunity to add to the UK’s undersupplied accessible housing stock.

Perry said: “We know that 1.8 million people live in houses that do not meet their needs, and we know (from personal experience, anecdotes, and research) that this has a huge impact on the day-to-day lives of disabled people. We also know that some local authorities aren’t doing anything.”

She added: “We need more accessible housing. It’s a key component of independent living and the lack of accessible housing is a solvable problem. We know that this a national issue and I think that central government need to be acting. I look forward to reading the results of last year’s consultation.”

According to the DNS, The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) warned three years ago that there were over 350,000 disabled people in England who were living in unsuitable housing, for example, without access to walk-in showers or downstairs bathrooms to allow them to properly wash themselves, or be helped by a carer.

Another campaigner, Pam Thomas, said: “We have been able to get the agreement of some developers through persuasion that it need not cost them any more to use inclusive design from the design stage, but because the law does not give us the power unless the Local Plan is approved, we cannot insist if the developers refuse.”

Thomas described the MHCLG as being out of touch, or unconcerned about, the chronic shortage of suitable accessible housing for elderly and disabled people in the UK.


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