The Other Housing Crisis

With the General Election campaign in its final week, we have been following what all of the parties have been saying on housing.  The issue continues to feature prominently in the General Election campaign.

Aspire has been consistently calling for more wheelchair accessible homes to be built.  Our research last year found that there are around 24,000 wheelchair users in England in urgent need of wheelchair accessible social or affordable housing.  This does not even take into account people struggling to buy or rent in the private market or those struggling to get on to housing lists.  Demographic changes in our population also mean that it is even more important that the nation’s supply of accessible housing increases now.  If it does not, then we will fall further behind in making the changes that are necessary for people to be able to live independent lives and will always be in a situation where we are struggling to meet the housing needs of our population.

What the Manifestos say

Conservative Party

"We will build 200,000 quality Starter Homes over the course of the next Parliament. We will now go further, delivering 275,000 additional affordable homes by 2020" 

Green Party

 "We would provide 500,000 social rented homes to high sustainability standards"

Labour Party

 "We will make sure that at least 200,000 homes a year get built by 2020"

Liberal Democrat Party

"An ambitious goal to build 300,000 homes a year"

Plaid Cymru

 "We will look at how savings from housing benefit and additional borrowing powers could be used to support the building of social or council housing"

Scottish National Party

 "We will back investment in an annual house building target across the UK of 100,000 affordable homes a year"

United Kingdom Independence Party

"We will take steps to remove the barriers to brownfield builds with the aim of building one million homes on brownfield sites by 2025 to address the current housing shortage"



So they all agree we need more housing.  However, none have committed to building housing that is suitable for all.  Aspire’s fear is that we will not build the type of homes that we need and will make an existing housing crisis even worse.  There will be such a pressure to build quantity that we will forget about standards.

Changes due to come into force in October this year as a result of The Deregulation Act 2015 will also be of detriment to building the type of housing we need. The Act has set model standards for homes through three levels.

  • Level 1 – Not accessible. Many can be made accessible but these are the most expensive to adapt to a wheelchair user’s needs
  • Level 2 – Would be suitable for someone with reduced mobility but not suitable for a wheelchair user. These homes can usually be made suitable for all with adaptations. Costs for adaptations would be significantly lower compared to Level 1 housing 
  • Level 3 – Wheelchair Accessible design standard. These homes are suitable for all, including wheelchair users.

Aspire called for Level 2 to be the minimum standard and for 10% of new homes to be wheelchair accessible (Level 3).  After all, this is a requirement in London for all new development so there is no reason why it cannot be applied nationally.  However, the adoption of these standards in the Deregulation Act will be optional.  This optional status, added to the pressure to build hundreds of thousands of homes, creates concern that we will not build enough Level 2 and 3 housing.

Without a national target and leadership, every local authority will be setting their own standards.  Although one of the requirements is that they need to take the demographics of their population into account, we know from our research and the work we do through our Housing Programme that some local authorities do not collect adequate information on the housing problems that disabled people and older people in their area experience.  The optional standards will also create a post code lottery on which type of homes will be available in your area. 

Aspire believes that if we don’t build homes to a standard that all people can live in now, then we will inevitable create a bigger problem in the future and continue to struggle to meet the housing needs of our population. 

We will continue to champion this issue with whatever government forms following the election on 7th May and strive for the homes that have been promised to be built to a standard that is suitable for all.