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Habinteg welcomes housing standards reform but argues for long term view in local planning

14 March 2014

New elements will be introduced to Part M of building regulations setting out criteria for age friendly adaptable housing and for enhanced access standards for wheelchair adaptable and accessible homes. As the innovator and champion of the Lifetime Homes Standard and Wheelchair Housing Design Standard, which were referenced throughout the review, Habinteg is pleased that Government are proposing to enforce the new access standards through a set of national rules enforced by building control.

The organisation’s welcome is tempered, however, by disappointment that government didn’t take the opportunity to standardise upwards by enshrining the accessible adaptable standard (similar to Lifetime Homes) as a minimum default for new homes. Viability assessments will also be required before accessible homes can be built, prompting an urgent need for guidance for local authorities for an assessment process that will take into account the long term socio-economic benefits of accessible homes.

Habinteg Chief Executive Paul Gamble said:

“We called for accessible standards to be included in the building regulations and we are pleased that this has been adopted for the first time ever by the government. Enshrining three levels of accessibility in the regulations is a significant recognition of what the public need from their future housing.

“The baton is now handed to local authorities to ensure that their local housing investment will meet needs long into the future. There is widespread recognition in national and local government that we need to act now to plan for our ageing population. So it’s critical that planning teams are given the tools and support to assess long term need and viability. We should not jeopardise the effectiveness of public investment in homes of local communities to the short term profit margins of developers. The long term savings to health and social care budgets gained by building to accessible, adaptable standards must be reflected in viability assessments.

“London is showing how it can be done, the GLA have specified Lifetime Homes as minimum access standard for some years now. We want to see more planning authorities take this sensible long term approach to their housing investment.”

The technical detail of the standards is expected to be published in the summer.

Habinteg participated in the Review of Housing Standards process and made a full response to the DCLG’s 2013 consultation. Their policy and technical response is available at www.habinteg.org.uk/responses  

For media enquiries, contact David Halliwell: 0207 822 8767 or dhalliwell@habinteg.org.uk

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