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?”
The retirement homes sector has come under fire in recent years over reportedly unfair practices by some retirement housing providers – aspects of which have recently been investigated by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). Problems include confusing service charges, lack of competitive tendering for maintenance contracts, high transfer fees, high commission charges on building insurance and unfair rental charges for wardens flats.
In response to these concerns, the Association of Retirement Housing Managers (ARHM) – which the majority of providers are members of – has worked with Age UK and a panel of leasehold residents to improve their voluntary code of practice. The ARHM has also given older people and their families the opportunity to help shape the new code to improve practice in the retirement home industry. This consultation comes after a recent roundtable discussion, chaired by the Housing Minister, Mark Prisk, looking at promoting best practice in the sector. This is helpful, but it is vital that as well as listening to the views of the retirement housing industry, residents also have an opportunity to express their views and influence Government policy. Continue reading “Have your say – a better deal for older leaseholders”
Age UK has launched a new report on sheltered and retirement housing ‘Making it Work for Us’, coinciding with a meeting of MPs and Peers to discuss reforms to leasehold housing. The complexity of leasehold agreements in retirement housing makes some older people vulnerable to financial exploitation – an issue we address in our report. Older residents tell us they are increasingly concerned about lack of transparency in leasehold contracts, particular in regard to service charges.
To produce the report Age UK supported a panel of older residents to look at how sheltered and retirement housing could be improved. Most of the residents were positive about what retirement housing could offer, but had concerns about a failure to address issues around bad practice.
Why is this so important? Currently only a very small percentage of older people actually live in retirement housing; the vast majority live in ordinary mainstream housing. Yet there is a growing interest in the role of retirement housing in freeing up larger family homes for younger people. Achieving this is difficult when there just isn’t enough affordable, well designed retirement housing in the right locations to make a real difference. Continue reading “Sheltered and retirement housing – ‘Making it Work for Us’”