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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Our housing crisis is about more than numbers - we need to build safe, accessible homes


Having a safe and accessible home is fundamental to being able to live a healthy, engaged and active life; which is why CIH is supporting Habinteg’s #ForAcessibleHomes campaign, says senior policy and practice officer Sarah Davis.

There are 11.6 million people with disabilities of all ages in England but, according to the latest research by Habinteg, only 7% of existing homes have even basic accessibility standards – which makes them ‘visitable’ but not habitable by disabled people. Currently around 300,000 disabled adults are living in a home that doesn’t meet their needs.

Add to this our ageing population – by 2039, household numbers will increase from 22.7 million to 28 million, and 74% of those will be headed by someone aged 65 and over. 53,000 more households a year will be headed by someone aged 85 and older. Single person households will make up one-third of all household growth and of those, 62% will be over 65.

Having a home that is accessible enables people with disabilities and people with mobility problems to live more independently and to look after themselves safely and with dignity. Economically, accessible homes make sense, not only for the individual but for public services. The BRE (Building Research Establishment) has estimated that falls in the home cost the NHS £419 million a year; and of course there are extra costs if people are delayed returning home from hospital, or are unable to return at all and need residential care. However, average costs to build to the government’s Part M (4) category 2 – roughly equivalent to the previous lifetime homes standard – range from £1101 for a 2 bedroom terrace house to £1387 for a three bedroom semi.

Accessible homes not only deliver savings for public services but help to support people’s economic activity and employment. Habinteg and Papworth Trust have demonstrated that living in an inaccessible home makes a disabled person four times more likely to be unemployed.

The housing white paper, Fixing our broken housing market, gives new opportunities to get things right for disabled households too – strengthening the requirement in the National Planning Policy Framework to address the housing needs of older and disabled households, and by developing a robust needs assessment that can clearly identify current and future household needs.

At CIH we think it is imperative that we plan now, not only for more homes, but more accessible homes – making Part M (4) category 2 the default requirement. London has shown that it is possible, and more cities such as Manchester are committing to this. Our housing crisis is about more than numbers, we need to build safe, accessible homes.

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