In our blog last week, “What we want the general election to deliver for disabled people,” we spoke about the need for the incoming Government to present an ambitious vision for disabled people. 

One of the central pillars of this vision must be to ensure that disabled people have a choice of housing that meets their needs and circumstances. For nearly 20 years, the Aspire Housing Programme has been supporting spinal cord injured people by providing fully accessible temporary housing and the help they need to secure permanent suitable homes.  For all the efforts of the Aspire Housing team though, we cannot meet demand and every year hundreds of spinally injured people are forced into inappropriate accommodation.

Last year Aspire campaigned for housing for disabled people in the following ways:

  • We published independent research revealing how important it is for people living with a spinal cord injury to live in housing that is designed and adapted for their needs and the dreadful consequences for physical and mental health and family life when they don’t.
  • We produced a film ‘An Intolerable Situation’ which showed how living in an inaccessible home has forced Tracey to put her life on hold.
  • Throughout the year, we worked with Parliamentarians to bring an end to the misery of thousands of disabled people like Tracey. 
  • We sought to amend planning legislation and succeeded in achieving a new duty in the Neighbourhood Planning Bill on the Secretary of state to require local authorities to meet the housing needs of disabled people.   
  • In October, we gave evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee inquiry examining the Government’s record on disability and the built environment. 

Findings of the Women and Equalities Committee

On Tuesday, the Committee published its findings.  The committee welcomes the government’s changes to the Neighbourhood Planning bill but feels that if a local authority wants to “prevent inaccessible housing from being built,” it should not be required to prove the level of need in order to do so.  It is the Committee’s view that “Wherever people live or choose to live in the future, there should be real choice in the housing available to them.” 

To achieve this vision, the committee recommends that “We should future-proof our housing policy.” It recommends that Government should remove the requirement on local authorities to prove an immediate need for accessible housing, where they want accessible homes built in their areas.  Building on this, the Committee concludes that the “evidence is clear” that the minimum standards that new homes have to comply with, to be visitable by disabled people, “is simply too low to meet the needs of the population.” It recommends that the Government raise the minimum standard for all new housing to be built to category 2 of Part M of the building regulations, to be accessible and adaptable for disabled people.  

What is particularly welcome and significant about this recommendation, is that it represents what could be described as a presumption in favour of accessible and inclusive development, which unlike current national planning policy that essentially requires local councils to justify a requirement for more accessible homes, presents the vision of an inclusive society in which meeting the housing needs of disabled people is a given.

As such, this is a powerful example of the kind of ambitious, coherent vision we spoke about in last week’s election blog, and one we would hope to see embraced in election manifestos and fully implemented by the incoming Government.