Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing this open letter to you because the rapidly increasing inaccessible housing crisis we face, and have been facing for many years now.
The upcoming decisions ‘You’ and your minsters make during your time in number 10 Downing Street will make a significant irreversible impact to the 14.1 million disabled people and their families, as well as our rapidly ageing population that. Specifically the critical decisions your government will make in response to the last year’s consultation on Accessible Housing that will impact not just the present generation but also the future of the disabled community and anyone living with mobility impairments who all too often cannot get access to housing that meets their needs.
While the last sixteen months have been extremely hard on many of us, there are hundreds of disabled people and their families that have been living in one room. A room that acts as their living room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. People are being forced to live this way through the lack of accessible housing. This has a detrimental impact on your quality of life as well as your independence.
People who’s homes do meet their accessibility needs have reported improvements in both their mental health and their physical well-being. However, it doesn’t end with the individual. Accessible homes are a critical resource if disabled people are going to be included in the ‘levelling up’ that your party is setting out to achieve. For example disabled people who’s accessible housing needs are met are four times more likely to be employed than those in inaccessible properties.
An accessible home is not only beneficial to the people living in it. An accessible or adaptable standard home will be much cheaper and faster to adapt if and when needed. Just having the right accessibility in the home can create significant savings for the public purse. Social care costs reduce because people have the choice to do more for themselves, NHS costs reduce because people can be discharged from hospital faster to homes that already offer what’s needed for them to recuperate from treatment or navigating their way through a new diagnosis.
The number of accidents at home will significantly reduce. We’ve heard so much about building safety recently in relation to fire (and rightly so) but for disabled people being safe at home is as fundamental as being able to safely navigate each room and use the amenities. Medical treatment after falls in the home accounts for a gigantic investment of NHS resources some of this could be spent on other priorities if we only designed more adaptable homes with fewer hazards.
Accessible homes can also help you achieve a more sustainable house building programme. They can be built with all the same materials and techniques now coming forward to deliver carbon neutral goals. The added bonus is that when someone moves in who needs an adaptation, it can be done with far less invasive work, helping to reduce the environmental impact as well as the waiting time and cost of adaptation.
Disabled and older people should not have to ‘make do’ and ‘just put up with’ being unable to carry out even the basics of daily living tasks at the expense of their independence and wellbeing. An accessible home isn’t and shouldn’t be thought of as a luxury, or a matter of luck. Living in an accessible home is ‘Living’.
I think you understand this, and I’m encouraged that as Mayor of London you championed the pioneering policy in the capital which still sees new homes built to accessible and adaptable standards as a minimum.
I would urge you to respond to the consultation as soon as possible and to ensure that the homes we build now will meet the needs of disabled and older people and their families long into the future.
We need to see the Accessible and Adaptable standard (Building Regs M4 2) established as the baseline standard for all new homes. And we need to set a minimum expectation for the proportion of new homes across the country that will be built to full wheelchair accessible standards (Building Regs M4 3).
Mr Prime Minister if you don’t grasp this opportunity with both hands to make the bold changes that are needed in Accessible Housing Policy, and get this right now, we will find there is a whole new kind of housing crisis that will happen in the future. I am certain that is not a legacy that you would wish for your tenure.
Please act now.