Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Accessible Housing - is there a crisis?

2,300 activists rallied near Westminster yesterday: the message clear and simple - end the housing crisis.  Children are homeless.  Households with no place to call home.  The solution?  Build more houses.  I agree, but I think the solution is not quite that simple, or if it is, more attention needs to be paid to the type of housing built.

With an ageing population, increasing chronic disease and 1 in 2 of us likely to be diagnosed with cancer, physical well-being is overall going to worsen and physical ability will decline. Increased numbers will have mobility issues - above and beyond those with physical disabilities (genetic or acquired), requiring accessible houses on one level with level entrances, generous door widths and turning spaces, good transport links, safe pavements and crossings, and local medical facilities.

At present in Scotland new housing should be accessible, adaptable and meet the needs of older people: this is in line with nationwide building regulations which state that new houses should be safe, accessible and efficient.  The degree of accessibility is graded with three standards applicable to house design - woefully, a basic provision is all that is required to adhere to regulations.  Basic provision is not enough for those who are wheelchair dependent; the bar needs to be set higher to benefit those in need, to adapt to our changing society. 

Disabled people face barriers in their everyday lives that prevent them from being full and active members of their community.  The Accessible Britain Challenge encouraged communities to become more inclusive and accessible and looked at four areas of interest: improved mobility, innovative use of buildings, spaces and places, safer neighbourhoods and inclusive social activities.  The entries were simple and effective.

However, in my opinion the first barrier  is ensuring that those with disabilities, chronic illness and the elderly are integrated within a safe and secure community, in houses suited to their individual needs, allowing them the confidence and freedom to engage in the world around them, allowing them to make use of the facilities available to them.  Attention, first and foremost, must be made to providing accessible homes. 

Accessible, adaptable housing not only benefits the individual, their family and their carers but also has socio-economic benefits for the community and society overall.  It makes sense to build such housing.  I ask the Scottish government to commit to building accessible, adaptable houses totalling ten percent of all new builds.

One woman yesterday said, “If you don’t have a home, you don’t have anything... Home means love, family and security. Without a home you can’t invest in your future?”

To that I can add, 

"An accessible, adaptable home allows independence and changes lives - everyone should have the right to a home they can move freely in."

1 comment:

Looking for Blue Sky said...

Absolutely agree - I see no homes being built that I could move straight into with my daughter