Building properties to new minimum standards will help cut cost of inaccessible homes
The financial and societal benefits of raising the accessibility standards of new homes outweigh the costs of implementing them.
We're calling on the government to implement the eagerly-awaited improvements to building regulations as soon as possible.
While last week housebuilders stated that implementing ‘Part M’ accessible housing regulations would cost around £310 million a year, charities and housing experts are highlighting the significant current cost of homes with poor accessibility – a sizeable proportion of which is currently paid by the taxpayer.
As co-chairs of the Housing Made for Everyone (HoME) coalition, experts at Ageing Better point to the vast positive social and financial impact of building more accessible homes. These include:
- Direct health benefits to the occupants and savings to the NHS from fewer falls and other injuries around the home
- Reductions in delayed transfers of care from hospitals back to patients’ homes
- Reductions in direct care, aftercare and assistance as people enabled to live independently for longer
- Wellbeing and mental health benefits for residents finally receiving suitable accommodation
- Reductions in the need for retrofitting adaptations into homes later, which is more costly than making them part of the building’s design
In terms of savings to the public purse, the introduction of minimum accessibility standards for new homes will help reduce:
- The £323m cost every year to the NHS and almost £2bn annual cost to society of falls on stairs and on the level in homes in England
- The £573m annual cost of the Disabled Facilities Grants to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to make accessibility improvements in people’s homes
- The estimated £2m annual cost to the NHS of delayed transfer of care because of accessibility issues such as awaiting community equipment and adaptations within the home
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The cost to the public purse of continuing to build homes that do not meet the accessibility standards the government has committed to will only continue to grow as the population ages.
For housebuilders, we believe a universal raise in accessibility standards does not have to mean extra costs as all developers will factor in the same additional costs and buy land based on the same assumptions. The change in regulations will simplify the existing system which varies in requirements from area to area by providing more certainty and a level playing field for developers.
The HoME coalition also welcomes the return of Michael Gove as Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and hopes he will be able to complete the process which has now been overseen by four different secretaries of state.
The government announced in July that it intended to improve building regulations to require all new homes to have entrance level step-free access and other accessibility features as a minimum requirement. But a second consultation on the draft technical details is scheduled before the change can be made to building regulations.
If the legislation were changed today, more than 350,000 accessible homes could be built in time for the next General Election which would go some way to providing options for occupants of the one million households in this country currently lacking the required adaptations.
Holly Holder, Deputy Director for Homes at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:
“Raising the standard of accessibility has the potential to change millions of lives and to cut some of the huge societal costs, particularly from reduced demand on health services, that come when people are forced to live in homes that do not meet their needs because of the lack of any appropriate alternative. By continuing to build new homes that are not accessible to all, we would effectively be building in more costs in adaptations needed in the future, more cost in terms of NHS and care spending and more carbon costs as homes aren’t fit for purpose in the long term.
“Some of these costs can be quantified but others cannot, meaning the benefits are even greater than we can calculate. And these are real benefits that accrue year-on-year, while the initial costs to tackle this issue are a one-off.
“The existing number of accessible homes in this country is woefully inadequate for current needs, and demand for accessible and adaptable homes will only increase given demographic trends. We are keen for the government to finish the good work they have started here so that the legislation can start making a difference to people’s lives, and society more generally, as soon as possible.”
Over the next ten years, there will be a huge age shift in society leading to more than one in four of the population being aged over 65 and above. While poorer health and reduced mobility as people age is not inevitable, a rapidly growing ageing population is likely to lead to a significant increase in the need for accessible homes.
One in five adults aged 65-69 need help with one or more activities of daily living such as bathing, cooking or using the toilet. By the time people reach their 80s, this figure rises to more than one in two.
More than nine in ten homes currently do not provide the four main features for even the lowest level of accessibility – a home that is ‘visitable’. And on current projections this situation will not improve anytime soon with only one new accessible home planned for every fifteen people over 65 by 2030.
Nick Apetroaie, Habinteg CEO, said:
“Making do in an inaccessible home can have a huge negative impact on a person’s health and well-being. It can also restrict them from aspects of life that many of us take for granted.
“There is a clear consensus for this change: 98% of the organisations consulted supported the government’s proposal to raise the accessibility standards of new homes.
“Improving the building regulations for accessible homes has the potential to deliver a quiet revolution in the UK’s housing provision and would leave a lasting legacy for our ageing population and all generations to come.”