Government failure on accessible housing undermines independent living


In its national planning guidance the Government says:

The need to provide housing for older people is critical, given the projected increase in the number of households aged 65 and over accounts for over half of the new households’

Yet, their current review of housing standards has failed to seize the opportunity to age proof all new homes. The measures they are proposing could in fact end up restricting progress on accessible housing.  This is terrible news because accessible, well designed houses and flats give all of us the security of knowing that if our mobility is reduced, our homes make it much easier to live independently – hopefully in a location of our choice.

Instead the Government has made improved access standards for new homes an option, to be determined by local authorities. This option, known as ‘category 2’ is based on the Lifetime Homes Standard – a set of 16 criteria which make homes easier and cheaper to adapt.

This optional approach, which requires evidence of need and viability, seems to imply that life time homes should primarily be applied to retirement housing. Most of the house building industry seems to regard retirement schemes as the most sensible response to the projected growth in the older population. The implication is that if your housing becomes inaccessible, due to poor design, it simply requires you to move into retirement housing or residential care.

Despite huge profits in the house building industry at the moment, with the substantial financial benefits from the Government’s Help to Buy scheme, the industry believes the cost of lifetime homes – at around £1,000 for each house – is prohibitive. But this amount is tiny, particularly compared to the massive costs to society of older people being unable to live independent lives.  Parts of the industry have consistently opposed lifetime homes against the interests of ordinary consumers and have blocked further progress towards more inclusive, age friendly home design.

In the real world, most of us want to continue living in ordinary housing as we get older, but often discover at a late stage that it’s difficult and costly to make adaptations. For older people who want to move out of large family homes, it’s wrong to assume they will only consider retirement housing. The majority want mainstream houses, flats or bungalows in good locations. The industry and the Government are out of touch with trends in the housing market, especially the financial power of older home buyers.

Over the years there has been progress on reforms to the ‘core’ building regulations (know as Part M). This has greatly improved the accessibility of new homes to visitors with restricted mobility. Even if the Government was justified in making ‘category 2’ optional, we might have expected that at least some of the low cost elements of this accessibility standard would be incorporated the core standards – but this hasn’t happened.

If the Government is serious about curbing the demand on overstretched health and care resources, then universally accessible homes would be a relatively cheap and easy way to make a real difference.   Join us in calling for lifetime homes to be the core standard for all new homes.

Give your own response to the housing standards review consultation 


7 thoughts on “Government failure on accessible housing undermines independent living”

  1. I wish there were bigger wheelchair friendly homes I find getting around my home very stressful and I am limited to my choice of location as to where I live. :(((

  2. There seems to be a scam running in some areas whereby one council member leaves council employment and sets up a building subcontractor firm, and seems to get all the work installing wheelchair accessible shower rooms – they all cost the maximum grant amount. Which means there’s less in the kitty for other people…my friend only needed a handrail, but they insisted on turning an entire downstairs room into a wet room, which they priced up at nigh on £30K! This should be investigated -whilst the work is put out to tender, some of them are winning every tender and coining it ! (Bournemouth and Poole)

  3. im 72 yrs old and no way would i go into one of those schemes. i live in a cul de sac of old people. 8 bungalows (4 sets of semi detached). its bad enough seeing nothing but old people here, never mind a load more. i like to be among all age need a light bulb changing or some other job you used to be able to do. no one to call on cos they are all too old. OK you have a warden in these schemes but chances are your lucky to actually see them unless there’s an emergency.people i knew in one complex, sold their own homes to go into part 3 residential warden accommodation some years ago, because they had no one visiting them at home and felt vulnerable, only to find sometime down the line that the resident warden, when they retired, was not replaced.instead someone went in each morning, called everyone on the internal link to check all was OK and that was it. some of those people never ever see a friendly face now.we need to see people face to face.

  4. New social houses are being built across the road from us and they are definitely not of lifetime standard, they have a step up to the front door, so do not even meet the visitability standard. They are glorified rabbit hutches so would never be suitable for a wheelchair user.

    We (me and my partially quadriplegic Hubby) have lived in our unadapted first floor flat for the last five years, been trying all that time to get moved into a suitable accessible bungalow, big enough for both us and our full time care team.

    In april we nearly bought it when we were trapped by a fire in our neighbours flat, we could not evacuate because of the smoke, a fire door between us and being toast. My hubby washes out of a plastic bowl, lives in two spots in the flat which are the only accessible areas. Our care agency has refused to supply care workers despite us qualifying for 24/7 NHS Cont Health Care, because there is no safe way to use a hoist due to the lack of space, leaving me to manually lift my hubby in and out of his chair.

    I have a letter from my GP saying I must stop the heavy lifting or I run the risk of ending up in a wheelchair myself in a few years time. My lower back is totally shot.

    We were top of the housing list at an adjoining council which would allow us to move nearer family to get more support, but they have changed the rules and our local connections are no longer local enough, by 15 miles.

    Everything is geared to make things the most difficult they can be if you need to have specialised housing.I have been told frequently to put my fully compos mentis Hubby in a nursing home, a move he sees as a death sentence.

    That is the reality of living with age and disability in Britain today.

  5. I think they’re focussing on fooling us into Assisted Dying at the moment…hence they’ve done nothing they promised to….

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