UK Faces Accessible Housing Crisis – Only 7% of Homes Deemed Accessible
Built Environment, Europe, Universal Design, January 7 2019
ENGLAND: Controversy rang out in November 2018 when the Home Builders Federation objected to councils across England wanting to increase the number of homes with universal home designed centered around accessibility. Organizations such as Age UK and the Centre for Ageing Better and Disability Rights UK released reports stating that only 7% of homes classify as accessible, causing a rift in a housing market that so poorly serves those with limited mobility. While currently trying to fight this injustice, organizations are being met with resistance in their fight for housing options that are suitable for all and meet higher accessibility standards.
Understanding UK’s Disability Discrimination Act
The DDA came into effect in 1995 and currently forbids the discrimination of tenants as well as prospective tenants due to a disability. A tenant who lives with limited mobility may legally request that a landlord make exceptions to policies that will allow them the opportunity to enjoy the rental home in the same manner as someone with full mobility. However, it’s not legally required for an owner to make a new home suitable for someone with reduced mobility. It remains voluntary to make homes wheelchair accessible unless town halls and local planning policies have deemed it absolutely necessary. As local governments continue to refuse to instate laws and practices geared towards an all-inclusive, accessible housing market, this puts more pressure on landlords to make their properties accessible.
HBF Represents Profitable Housing Firms
One of the biggest issues in this fight for accessible homes is the fact that HBF represents some of the UK’s most profitable housing firms, including the well-known Persimmon. Amongst their concerns regarding accessible housing is the claim that instating local planning policies geared towards accessibility would make it unprofitable to build new homes. The charities rallying against the HBF countered this argument with an open letter that stated, “Without homes that enable us to live safely and independently for as long as possible, we will see increased and unsustainable pressure on our health and social care services and much-reduced quality of life for people in older age.”
The Real Numbers on Sustainable Homes
As both sides continue to work out the details and air their concerns, statistics all over the world continue to support the fact that accessible homes actually are more desirable and profitable. One study in the United States reported that buyers, regardless of their mobility status, are more interested in homes with features such as wider hallways and sloped entrances and would be willing to pay up to $15,000 more for an accessible home. The same study went on to note that accessible homes sell faster while stating that these types of homes are particularly popular for families with small children and aging parents.
The Future of the Accessibility Fight in the UK
It appears that there is still a lot of fight left in the HBF regarding their concerns surrounding accessible building practices. While organizations continue to counteract these ideas, the power lies in the hands of local landlords who are willing to adapt their housing in order to meet the growing needs of those with limited mobility. By making a commitment to ensuring properties are accessible by those in a wheelchair or simply those who need extra helping getting around, landlords can help shift the market in favor of being fair for all.
Written by Jane Sandwood, a professional freelance writer and editor.