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A coalition of ten organisations from across the housing and charity sectors is calling for the government to resist calls to relax planning regulations, warning that this would lead to an even greater shortage of accessible housing across the country.

The Housing Made for Everyone (HoME) coalition, comprised of the Centre for Ageing Better, Habinteg Housing, Age UK, RIBA, Care & Repair England, Disability Rights UK, Housing LIN, the National Housing Federation, the Chartered Institute of Housing and the Town and Country Planning Association, is responding to developers’ calls for looser regulations in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

In an open letter to Housing Minister Christopher Pincher, the HoME coalition says that the coronavirus crisis has shone a light on the importance of people having homes that are suitable for their needs, with many having spent lock down stuck in houses that are inaccessible and therefore hazardous to their health and wellbeing.

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Current plans show that by 2030, there will be just one new accessible home built for every 15 people over the age of 65, despite the widely-known fact that the UK is undergoing a massive demographic age shift. Figures suggest there are already 1.8 million people with an accessible housing need and the HoME coalition warns that this number will only increase.

The coalition warns that disruption caused by the crisis and the eagerness of developers to get back to work must not be allowed to jeopardise moves to deliver new homes that are accessible, with the government repeatedly committing to consulting on accessibility standards before the crisis hit.

The HoME coalition is calling on the UK government to establish the ‘accessible and adaptable’ design standard, set out in Building Regulations M4 Category 2, as the regulatory baseline for all new homes.

Anna Dixon, Chief Executive of the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Lack of accessible housing is a major problem in the UK, and we must not let the disruption of the COVID-19 crisis distract the government from its mission to build more suitable homes.

“It is understandable that developers are keen to get back to work quickly but planning restrictions must not be relaxed. We otherwise risk having even more people living in houses that are unsuitable for their needs. The houses we build today will be with us for decades to come, so it is vital we build for the future – a future in which more of us will live to older ages.”

HoME is a coalition of ten organisations calling for urgent action to tackle the UK’s acute and growing shortage of accessible homes. All members have signed up to a shared vision and charter to review society’s approach to housing and ensure all new housing is built to be suitable for the changing needs of our ageing population and disabled people.

To address the lack of accessible housing across England, last year, the HoME coalition launched a seven-step charter to transform new housing so that homes are suitable for elderly and disabled people, including recommendations for central and local government, estate agents, and developers.

Sheron Carter, Chief Executive of Habinteg, added: “Throughout lockdown we have heard from disabled people how the accessibility of their homes has been a ‘make or break’ factor, either supporting their wellbeing or severely restricting their independence.

“Meanwhile many non-disabled people have experienced for the first time the limitations on getting out and about that many disabled people have to tolerate in their everyday lives.

“It’s no longer acceptable to knowingly build homes that have in-built barriers and restrictions for disabled and older people. As we emerge from this crisis as a nation it’s time for a change, we have to build better.”

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