Housing accessibility standards
In late 2020, the Government conducted a consultation to consider how to raise housing accessibility standards, recognising the importance of suitable homes for older and disabled people and that we have an ageing population in this country.
In particular, it wanted to know how the existing optional accessible and adaptable standard for homes and the wheelchair user standard are used, and whether the Government should mandate a higher standard or reconsider the way the existing optional standards are used. SIA made a comprehensive submission to this consultation.
98% of consultation respondents supported the Government’s intention to raise the accessibility standards of new homes
An overwhelming 98% of consultation respondents supported the Government’s intention to raise the accessibility standards of new homes. This highlighted the wider impact raising accessibility standards of new homes would have such as:
- the reduction in reliance on the NHS and social services, paid and family carers
- helping to support disabled people to work, socialise and contribute to society as fully as possible
‘Future proofing’ new homes for successive generations would also save the costs associated with adapting homes.
The existing minimum standard for accessible housing in England has four main requirements that make homes accessible and visitable for most people including wheelchair users:
- wheelchair users level access to the main entrance
- a flush threshold
- sufficiently wide doorways and circulation space
- a toilet at entrance level
This applies as the minimum for all new build homes; but not to extensions or changes of use. However, where there is a material alteration to a building’s access, the building cannot be made less compliant than it was before the alteration.
Having reviewed the consultation responses, the Government has proposed that the current M4(2) (Category 2: Accessible and adaptable dwellings) requirements in the Building Regulations is mandated as a minimum standard for all new homes. This higher M4(2) standard requires additional features including a living area at entrance level and step-free access to all entrance level rooms and facilities, wider doorways and corridors as well as clear access routes to reach windows. It also includes further features to make homes more easily adaptable over time for a wide range of occupants, including older people, those with reduced mobility and some wheelchair users, for example sanitary provisions that can be adapted easily for installation of grab rails and stairs designed to allow easy fit of a stair lift.
Holly Holder, Co-Chair of the Housing Made for Everyone (HoME) coalition, said:
“We warmly welcome the government’s decision to raise the minimum accessibility standard as a positive step towards resolving the significant shortage of accessible and adaptable new homes in this country. Raising the standard of accessibility has the potential to change millions of lives but only if executed well and with very limited exceptions to the way the revised regulation is applied. Homes with higher accessibility standards benefit everyone, particularly disabled people and older people, and disadvantage no one.”
SIA welcomes the Government recognising the poor standard of accessible housing, and we see this as a positive first step. Further steps will be needed however, to ensure enough accessible houses are built in the right locations and are affordable to SCI people.
Subject to a further consultation on the draft technical details, the Government intends to implement this change with a change to building regulations. Click below for more information about the consultation responses: