21 Dec 2023

More needs to be done to make housing accessible for everyone

The Scottish Government has consulted on a review of the Housing for Varying Needs (HfVN) design guide first published in 1998. The revised HfVN standards will only apply to new affordable housing delivered through the Affordable Housing Supply Programme (AHSP) and accommodation provided through the Gypsy/Traveller Accommodation Fund. The Scottish Government has also committed to introducing a new Scottish Accessible Homes Standard (SAHS) for homes across all tenures through updating building standards and guidance from 2025/26. SAHS will be based on the new HfVN standards with some exceptions.

The review covers Part 1 of HfVN which deals with the design of self-contained houses and flats. The Scottish Government does not intend to review Part 2 of HfVN which covers the provision of homes with “integral support” usually including communal spaces and facilities such as specialist accommodation with support.

Proposals include additional space requirements for entranceways and corridors to allow for easier movement through buildings, colour differentiation on different floors of multistorey blocks to help with navigation, indoor space to allow for work or study, and private or communal outdoor space with room for sitting.

Estimated costs included in the consultation paper suggest that the proposed measures would add £2,560 to the cost of a two-bedroom general needs home, or £10,148 for a wheelchair accessible home. Larger homes over multiple floors would face higher costs.

Ashley Campbell, policy and practice manager at CIH Scotland said:

“We welcome the review of Housing for Varying Needs – at nearly 25 years old, it’s clear that the standards needed to be revisited to ensure the new homes we desperately need are being built to better accessibility standards, can be more easily adapted, and are fit for the future. Improving accessibility benefits everyone.

“However, the decision not to review Part 2 of the guide was disappointing. The Scottish Government has a clear commitment to support people to live well at home for as long as possible, and while for many, this will be in mainstream accommodation, we know that there is a real lack of specialist supported accommodation for those who need it.

“Models like Housing with Care have been shown to successfully support people who need extra help and prevent the need for more expensive and disruptive stays on hospital or moves into residential care. Reviewing the guidance would have presented an opportunity for the Scottish Government to acknowledge the role of specialist accommodation and promote the partnerships needed to successfully fund and deliver it.

“Our members also raised some concerns over the accuracy of the cost estimates and the impact that additional costs could have on delivery. While the standards absolutely need to be improved, we need to have a transparent discussion about how they will be financed, this is especially pertinent given the recent budget announcement which cut £200m from the Affordable Housing Supply Programme.”

Read the consultation response

Read the full response from CIH Scotland here