Housing is not just a numbers game - quality matters too
All of the political parties have committed to developing more new homes at scale, reflecting the widespread appreciation of the housing crisis we are facing. But, as CIH senior policy officer Sarah Davis explains in our latest general election blog, we need to think very carefully about the type of houses being built and quality of those homes and how they can be adapted and changed to meet the needs and aspirations of our current and future population.
All of the political parties have committed to developing more new homes at scale, reflecting the widespread appreciation of the housing crisis we are facing. While these promises are welcome, the reality is huge. Not only do we need 340,000 new homes a year for a decade, we also need these homes to be fit for the future too. They need to last a long time – up to 2,000 years according to an estimate by the LGA back in 2017. Although building rates have increased, even the rise to 213,660 delivered in 2018 still falls short of what we need by a significant number.
So, we need to think very carefully about what we are building. We need to evaluate the type of houses being built and quality of those homes, alongside how they can be adapted and changed to meet the needs and aspirations of our current and future population.
We have not been very good at this in the past
Currently only 7 per cent of our homes have the basic accessibility features, despite the fact that 21 percent of our population is disabled. The severe difficulty that these individuals face, struggling day to day in an unsuitable home, was highlighted by the EHRC in what it termed our hidden housing crisis. This included the impact on employment prospects – disabled working aged adults being four times more likely to be unemployed than a non-disabled person. Habinteg‘s analysis of local plans revealed that outside London, only 23 percent of the homes due to be built by 2030 will have greater accessibility standards and only 1 percent will be built suitable for people using a wheelchair.
We need to step up the level of accessibility we build into new homes very quickly
This is why CIH has joined a coalition of organisations calling for action to increase accessible homes – housing made for everyone or HoME. HoME asks for higher accessibility standards (Building Regulations Part M 4 category 2) being mandatory rather than discretionary, as one of seven key steps set out in the charter. As nearly 25 percent of disabled people live in social housing, it has been important to see leading providers, including the chief executives of Longhurst group and Network Homes, speak out about changing the approach to accessible housing recently. Where the sector leads we need all to follow, so there is action across all tenures and types of new homes. We need to build health and wellbeing into our new homes, ensuring they are in accessible places too, looking at wide design principles such as those encapsulated in TCPA’s Healthy Homes Act. This came about due to concern over the quality of developments being produced, particularly through permitted development, and the conversion from office to residential use, which delivered 12 percent of net additional new homes last year. In their review of planning, TCPA argued that some of the homes delivered through this risk being the slums of the future.
Evidence shows, with an ageing population and the growth in numbers of people over 85, we also need to think about how we build homes to support those who may need more help to maintain independence, whilst also limiting dependency on care and health services. We know that good retirement and housing with care models can achieve this, but we are still not building to the scale we need. Lord Best has warned recently that failure to address the issue of housing for older people could cost billions because of health and social care costs, and called for an ambition to develop 30,000 homes a year tailored for older people, across all tenures.
So we need to think not only about the big numbers we have to achieve, but make sure that these are the right homes in the right places to meet the needs of our population – now and in the future – to ensure that our homes support our wellbeing at all stages of life.