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Warning Over Suitability Of New Housing For Disabled

The lack of homes in England with design features to make them suitable for disabled people is set to become more acute over the course of this decade, new research has indicated.

ITV News has revealed the details of a study shared with it by Habinteg Housing Association, which found that the annual proportion of new homes set to be built to accessible standards is set to drop from the 2019 figure of 34.4 per cent to 31.5 per cent by 2030.

This is a particular problem because older properties were seldom built with the disabled in mind, meaning that only nine per cent of all homes in England have even rudimentary features. This means many homes will need to be retrofitted to offer features such as mobility bathrooms.

Habinteb director of strategy Nicholas Bungay said: “Disabled and older people should not have to ‘make do’ at the expense of their independence and wellbeing.”

There are two standards for disabled-friendly homes in the UK – the accessible and adaptable M4 (2) standard, which provides for features like wider door frames and stringer bathroom walls to support grab rails, and the wheelchair user dwelling M4 (3) standard, which sets out how homes can be designed for wheelchair users.

However, both of these standards are optional and this means local authorities are not obliged to include them in their housing plans. This leaves them open to pressure from developers who want to avoid the extra cost.

Habinteb’s study of the plans of 324 English local authorities found only one accessible home will be built for every 77 people in the next decade, compared with one for every 67 in 2019.

There were also regional variations, with the West Midlands having no requirements to build homes designed for wheelchair users.

The issue is one that the government agency Homes England may need to focus strongly on, not least as its annual Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Report for 2020/21 pledged its commitment to “improving our understanding of the housing needs of the diverse communities, identifying gaps in the current market and taking steps to address them.”


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