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Why It Is Time for Developers to Take Another Look at Accessible Housing...

29/07/2016 12:03 | Updated 29 July 2016

Today our two organisations launch joint research that we commissioned into the renewed case for building more accessible homes.

The research, using a mix of analysis of government data, an in-depth telephone survey, interviews with disabled people, and general opinion polling was conducted by teams at the London School of Economics (LSE) and Ipsos MORI.

And the findings make compelling reading for policy-makers at national and local level and anyone engaged in the business of providing the homes of the future.

Most notably, the research challenges assumptions about the potential for disabled people to buy their own home - proving there is a real demand amongst the disabled and older community for home ownership, and it also shows that homes with certain access features are appealing to a wide range of consumers, not just disabled people. At the same time, the reports demonstrate that people whose needs for accessible housing are not met suffer serious consequences for their health, wellbeing, access to work and social contact.

There is widespread understanding across the political spectrum and among commentators on all sides that Britain needs to build more homes. Informed estimates suggest that we need between 200,000 -250,000 per year to keep up with consumer demand. The growing number of disabled and older people in communities up and down the country are a very important component of this additional demand.

Papworth Trust and Habinteg have between them a long history of providing and promoting accessible and adaptable homes for disabled and nondisabled people. We have a jointly held belief that disabled and older people deserve better housing options and that the accessibility of new homes must be a priority - not only for the benefit of individuals and families but as a common sense way of future proofing housing investment.

There are 11.9 million disabled people in the country and as a society we are ageing rapidly - the number of people aged 65 and over is expected to rise by over 50% by 2030 compared to 2010. Yet a look at our housing stock shows that only six percent provides the four bare minimum access features that would allow a disabled person to easily visit, let alone stay the night or live in, on a longer term basis.

The Government itself has rightly acknowledged the strategic importance of meeting the demand for accessible homes, bringing optional standards for higher levels of access into building regulations for the first time in 2015. The standards now contained in Part M(4) of regulations offer a tangible quality indicator that's relevant to every sector of the market.

Of course the benefits of accessible homes are not only experienced by disabled people. Their non-disabled neighbours, whether it be the couple with small children, a young professional having furniture delivered to their first home, or an active retiree grandparent - can all benefit from the features of inclusively designed homes.

Meanwhile the positive impact of meeting the housing needs for people with impairments can reach beyond their own health, wellbeing and employment prospects, to the wider community and hard pressed public services.

And yet, as discourse begins to emerge about the need for growth in housing stock, and the new Prime Minister is rumoured to be considering a fiscal stimulus that includes borrowing to build homes, accessible housing is often not as central to the debate as it should be.

That is why we have launched this collaborative research project in an attempt to set out and provide new perspectives on the market for accessible homes. By taking a fresh look at the existing data, and seeking the views of both disabled and non-disabled people, the project set out to challenge assumptions and shine a light on potential demand.

With 1.8 million disabled people reporting unmet housing needs, it is clear that up until now, there has been a hidden housing market that developers and social housing providers have not fully appreciated and tapped into.

We hope that this research is the beginning of a broader debate about how accessible homes should feature in the decision-making process of developers and policy-makers.

The key findings of the report can be found at www.habinteg.org.uk/research and www.papworthtrust.org.uk/news.

Jointly written by:
Vicky McDermott & Paul Gamble
Chief Executive Officers of Papworth Trust & Habinteg

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