MPs have been told that the provision of accessible housing in England is “at breaking point”, partly because of their own failure to act to end the crisis.
But Mikey Erhardt, policy and campaigns officer for Disability Rights UK, told them that decisions made in the House of Commons and by other organisations “have led to this crisis” and that disabled people had been “consistently failed”.
He said: “There is very little provision for accessible housing in this country, even less provision for accessible affordable housing, and even less provision for accessible, affordable housing in your local area.”
He said that one in five disabled people in social housing and one in three in private rented housing had an unmet housing need, while many were living with hazards such as damp, cold or mould that were exacerbating their long-term health conditions or impairments.
He told the committee: “Where we’re at now is that we are at a bit of a breaking point.
“I’ve spoken to people who have lived in inaccessible temporary accommodation for decades. They can’t even get basic [adaptations] made.
“They’re living trapped in housing and circumstances that mean they don’t feel like they can get out and maybe get a job, they can’t get out and be part of the local community.”
He told the committee that most of the barriers disabled people faced in accessing housing were caused by “policy failure”.
Erhardt (pictured) also pointed to the “spiralling” cost of rented accommodation, and the government’s failure to implement the Grenfell Tower Inquiry’s recommendations on personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs).
He said: “Across the board, the barriers are self-imposed. We have made decisions in [the House of Commons] and in other areas that have led to this crisis.”
He highlighted the government’s failure to launch a consultation on rules that would force all new homes in England to be built to the M4(2) standard of accessibility, except for cases where this was “impractical and unachievable”.
Such a change would mean nearly all new homes would need step-free access to all entrance-level rooms, as well as facilities and other features to make them more easily adaptable over time.
The government announced in July 2022 that this consultation would happen, and it is now more than three years after an earlier consultation ended, in December 2020.
Erhardt said: “We’re waiting years and years and years for no movement on raising standards on new builds.
“The impact is that we’re simply not building anywhere near the accessible homes that we need, and that developers have an outsized hand and role in shaping provision across the country.”
Christina McGill, director of social impact and external affairs for Habinteg Housing Association, which specialises in accessible homes, told the committee that Habinteg’s last review of local plans found only about 23 per cent of planned homes in England were set to be built to the M4(2) standard.
She said that bringing in M4(2) as the “baseline” would increase the supply of inclusive homes “dramatically”, and it would also mean that the disabled facilities grant budget would stretch further.
But she said it was also important to impose a target for homes built to the M4(3) wheelchair-accessible standard.
She said that work carried out by Habinteg in 2020 (PDF) found that only 76 local plans drawn up by councils (less than a quarter) were specifying that any homes at all should be built to the M4(3) standard, which meant there was “an enormous postcode lottery across the country”.
She said Habinteg would like to see a minimum of 10 per cent of new homes built to M4(3) “because we’re in a catch-up situation, much as London has been, and London has been working on that kind of policy principle for a long time”.
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