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Britain needs not only more affordable homes, but more accessible homes as well

accessibility

My wife and I are council house tenants. She has Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis and I am her full time carer.

Generalisations about people in our position are really unhelpful. They create immediate preconceptions about the environment social housing tenants live in. They ignore the years we both spent owning our own home, when we still fell under the meaningless classification of “hard-working taxpayers”.

The failure to build enough homes is making things much more difficult for an increasing number of people. First-time buyers and renters are particularly badly hit. Not addressing supply especially affects groups that need extra support and who need accessible housing, which falls further by the wayside as supplying just any kind of housing takes priority.

All political parties need to focus on realistic policies to address this shortfall in creating more homes. Voters need to be given positive, realistic solutions for all tenures. Even for those of us brought to an interest in housing by negative factors – for me the bedroom tax, a policy that does not take into account our circumstances or those of many others affected – need to be given hope that there’s a better way to balance housing supply to meet a range of needs.

Beyond the circus of home ownership, some of us want to live in places we think of as our homes, though we may not want, or cannot afford to buy them.

For our part, my wife and I have a stake in supporting the provision of more social housing, in the manner the SHOUT (Social Housing Under Threat) campaign embodies. As the Homes for Britain campaign shows, approaches that tinker with demand in housing are not working, and are actively making things worse.

Other contributors to this blog have and will focus on how to solve the housing crisis but we must also examine why it’s important. Britain must address the shortfall in supply, and that supply must include accessible homes, and homes that people across all tenures can afford to live in.


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Written by Rob Gershon | Posted on 16th February 2015

Rob Gershon is a social housing tenant and full time carer. Rob regularly posts opinion pieces on 24Dash, commenting on housing from a tenant's point of view. He is also a contributor to 24Housing magazine, and is a member of the Social Housing Under Threat (SHOUT) campaign for more social housing.

  • Future-proofing, when planning to build any ‘adapted property’, is of paramount importance. If a property is built, as many are, with particular tenants in mind, future needs of that individual must be considered in order to avoid expensive further adaptations being required.
    In our case, because an Occupational Therapist decided on a minimum requirement of ceiling-hoists [in order to ‘save money’], and bare minimum bathing facilities, it was necessary to build in additional adaptations at a cost of some £25,000.
    All to ‘save’ around £8-10,000 initially.
    I’d love a job advising on such requirements… anybody?

    • Angela Cavill-Burch

      I honestly despair at the lack of knowledge of many OT’s and the fact they are firmly in their employers pocket rather than what is best for the disabled person. Come across it time and time again.

    • Madeleine Pritchard

      I work in as an assistant in an architects and we work on residential housing schemes often. The developers try to gain ‘points’ in order to get through a system set by planning that is points based therefore,not necessarily common sense – it is quite meaningless. I am constantly asking questions like – how do they know that is enough? We spend a lot of time trying to ‘fit in’ or demonstrate that we have provided certain provisions for ‘future proofing’ or making properties adaptable to the changing useage needs of the inhabitants. But, these points based systems are exploited in order to favour the developer. I.e – do as little as possible to get the ‘points’. This is the same principle as the introduction of minimum wage – if you set an ‘acceptable’ minimum, then, that’s the most you can expect. Profit making organisations are never going to spend money where they don’t have to. We need higher standards, or go back to having homes built by local councils and in turn maintained and regulated by them.

      I hope to one day start my own small developing company but, because we will all be from an architecture background we want to find cheap, modern and fit for purpose housing designs that are considerate to the needs of the people using them. That’s why I went into architecture – not to learn to just make things work for the developer. If we were designing for council housing, all this corner cutting couldn’t and wouldn’t be happening. We need to build housing that just for housing stock and is regulated by central government.

  • Angela Cavill-Burch

    Well done for writing this. We are still fighting for a safe accessible home.

  • Rob G

    Thanks for your comments – I know you both have a lot of experience in this area as you are also affected by it. It’s a subject that is occasionally dealt with by outfits like Habinteg, but as the provision of affordable housing for anyone seems to have become increasingly challenging, the tenants who need the most help seem to be pushed the furthest from the public mission of housing providers.