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. Continue reading “Government failure on accessible housing undermines independent living”
The changes to the private pensions system were the big announcements affecting older people in this year’s Queen’s Speech, bringing into effect the shake-up of the annuities regime that was announced in the Budget in March.
While these measures, if done properly, are very welcome, the Government missed a big opportunity to introduce legislation to protect more vulnerable older people from abuse, and to seriously address cold homes, which over a million older people are estimated to find themselves in every year.
Effective housing policies will make or break the UK’s ability to meet the challenges posed by our ageing population. Building homes that remain accessible for all stages of a person’s life and can be adapted easily, taking into account diverse and changing need, just makes sense.
Habinteg and Age UK have both contributed to the Government’s review of housing standards consultation and made the case for national standards that increase the supply of accessible homes. The new three tiered approach recommended by the Government needs to prioritise access issues. Without this local and national commitment, the homes of the future will simply not provide for the needs of the increasing number of older and disabled people in the UK.
An ageing population
The projections could not be clearer. By 2030, one in three people in the UK will be aged over 55 with the number of disabled people estimated to rise to 4.6million by 2041.
Does housing wealth really have untapped potential to fund care and support options for older people? Recently Age UK held a policy seminar on housing inequality among older people to consider this and a number of other related questions, with the help of some leading experts. The conclusions they drew seem to challenge a number of faulty assumptions about housing wealth – assumptions that are shaping the thinking of policy makers. Dr Beverly Searleof St. Andrew’s University offered an alternative and more complex picture of the distribution of housing prosperity in England and the implications for policy.
Dr Searle described dramatic geographical variations in the location of housing wealth – linked to house prices – which determine the equity available to older people and the choices they can make. Dr Searle found that 42% of housing wealth is concentrated in London and the South East, while 20% is located in the North East, Yorkshire and Humberside and the North West combined. Only 3% of housing wealth is found in North East. These inequalities mean that some housing and care options will only be available in affluent places, while choices for older people in poorer areas decline.
Moving to a park home can be a dream retirement for many people – an affordable way of downsizing to a friendly and attractive location. It’s estimated that around 160,000 people live in park homes in England.
But it can also have challenges, and one of these is keeping warm in the winter. Age UK has been contacted by a number of older residents of park homes in connection with our warm homes campaign.
I just want to mention the millions of forgotten elderly throughout the country who live in Park Homes where cavity wall and loft insulation do not apply. No one considers them!
The Government has now released its long-awaited consultation paper on building standards. So far the press have mainly focused on space standards, rather than the implications for accessibility. The Government’s review considers several options to make progress, while recognising the challenges of a rapidly ageing society. The main proposal on accessibility is to establish three levels for building standards to take account of differences in local housing need. At the moment, Part M of the building regulations determines the ‘visitabilty’ of new homes. This covers areas such as level step free entrance and floor, and having a downstairs loo. The Government propose that this should remain a baseline standard that applies to all housing.
At the same time they suggest, as one option, an ‘intermediate’ second level standard that could be based on the lifetime homes standard and a third level for specialist wheelchair accessible housing. This would mean that the number of homes built to either the prescribed ‘lifetime homes’ or wheelchair access levels would be determined by projected local demand, following a local authority’s assessment. While giving local authorities flexibility it would establish a consistent standard at each of the suggested levels to reduce the cost and complexity of the variety of different local requirements, which are applied at the moment. Continue reading “Can we improve the quality of new homes for future generations?”