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Disabled people being “failed” by government’s housing policy, say MPs

The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee is urging the government to tackle England’s accessible housing crisis by building thousands of new accessible social housing units.

The calls come following a new report by the Committee which found “little evidence” that the government is “treating disabled people’s needs as a priority in housing policy.”

Demand for accessible housing outstripping supply

The number of disabled people in England is rising, as is the demand for accessible housing, yet research shows that:

  • One in three disabled people in private rented properties live in unsuitable accommodation;
  • One in five disabled people in social housing live in unsuitable accommodation; and
  • One in seven disabled people in their own homes live in unsuitable accommodation.

Four years ago, the government consulted on plans to increase the minimum accessibility standard for all new build homes, with the policy formally announced two years later. However, this is still yet to be implemented.

The Committee says disabled people are being “failed” by the government’s housing policy, with many living in “unsuitable accommodation for years without hope.”

Inaccessible housing can have a ‘horrendous impact’ on people’s lives

To find out more about disabled people’s first-hand experiences of accessible housing, the Committee held an evidence session at Westminster and launched an online survey.

Their new report is based on more than 1,000 disabled people’s experiences of accessible housing, and the Committee says the report shines a light on the “horrendous impact that living in inaccessible housing can have on a disabled person’s life.”

The Committee heard from disabled people who were completely housebound for long periods of time due to the inaccessibility of their homes as well as multiple account of landlords denying permission for housing adaptations. This is on top of significantly higher asking prices for accessible homes and a decades long waiting list for accessible social housing.

The Committee says disabled people are too often treated as a homogeneous group, when in reality, they are individuals who have varying needs and requirements.

They have therefore set out various recommendations for the government to improve the accessible housing landscape and ensure everyone can access accommodation that is right for them.

Ensuring housing policy is more inclusive of disabled people now and in future

The recommendations for the government include:

  • Building thousands more accessible homes, including 90,000 new social rent homes per year.
  • Creating a new policy which requires landlords to agree to all reasonable accessibility adaptations, and ensuring the Private Rented Sector Landlord Ombudsman considers all complaints involving a landlord’s refusal to grant permission for adaptations.
  • Implementing the M4(2) policy commitment as soon as possible, which sets a higher standard for accessible homes.
  • Requiring all local authorities to assess their local need for wheelchair accessible housing to ensure a minimum percentage have M4(3) standard homes.

The Committee has also urged the government to review the £30,000 upper limit on Disabled Facilities Grants (DFG) and set new regional upper limits which take account of inflation and construction costs.

MPs say the DFG means test should also be simplified to ensure it does not disproportionately penalise working disabled people, while they also recommend that DFG guidance and self-assessment tools are expanded to improve public awareness.

As the report concludes: “Overall, it is essential that the Government, local authorities, and the housing sector work together to prioritise disability inclusion and address the barriers that disabled people are currently facing.

“We hope that our Report will motivate the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to be at the forefront of this effort, to ensure housing policy is more inclusive of disabled people now and in future.”

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