Housing has become a defining policy issue for the London Mayoral candidates, as spiralling house prices, rising rents, and a substantial lack of supply, take their toll on London’s 8.6 million residents. However, the issue of finding affordable and suitable housing becomes even more acute for the 14%*, or over 1 million Londoners, who identify themselves as disabled.
TheHouseShop’s Franki Chaffin-Edwards spoke exclusively to the 2016 London Mayoral candidates to find out how disabled-access and accessibility fit into their plans for the future of London’s housing market.
Labour candidate, Sadiq Khan, has put housing at the forefront of his campaign, stating:
“I’m making the Mayoral election a referendum on the housing crisis, and if I’m elected, I’ll set up a dedicated team in City Hall on day one, called Homes for Londoners, who’ll crack on with building the homes we need as a city, including those accessible for people with disabilities.”
Sadiq also committed to maintaining the London Plan policies brought in by Boris Johnson, announcing:
“It’s really important that the new homes we build for Londoners are not only accessible financially, but accessible for those with disabilities. I’ll make sure, as Mayor, that all new developments are built to Lifetime Homes standard and 1 in 10 of all new units are wheelchair accessible”.
Sadiq Khan was not the only candidate to commit to these policies, as both Sian Berry and Caroline Pidgeon also announced their intentions to maintain the Lifetime Homes standard and the minimum 10% wheelchair accessible requirement.
It will be interesting to see whether the candidates can keep their promises once in office, as the Conservative government have recently scrapped the Lifetime Homes standard in favour of the more technical ‘Category 2: Accessible and Adaptable Dwellings’.
Green Party candidate, Sian Berry, was most vocal in her desire to go above and beyond the existing legislation, stating:
“The London Plan provides us with a starting point for improving the stock of accessible housing, but I also believe that we can be much bolder and in Camden I have put forward proposals for new developments to meet Lifetime Neighbourhoods principles, which are a wider set of standards aimed at ensuring local areas are welcoming and accessible to older people and people with disabilities in other ways – for example through green space, digital inclusion facilities and ensuring services are located within communities.”
Ms Berry also welcomed the fresh attempt to raise the issue of disabled-access housing, saying:
“We really welcome this report from TheHouseShop because it demonstrates the urgent need for action to ensure that these existing plans are being implemented to the benefit of London’s disabled community.
Across so many areas of policy we see that the letter of the law – designed to improve the lives of people – is not being implemented simply because staff are not being trained or taught about these important pieces of legislation. That’s not the fault of the staff delivering front-line services, but it does mean that people end up not having their rights respected.”
Liberal Democrat candidate, Caroline Pidgeon, was quick to point out the inevitable growth in demand for accessible and adaptable properties, commenting:
“We should take heed of the wise words of Alf Morris, the UK’s first disability minister, who quite rightly highlighted how some form of disability could face nearly all of us in old age, when he bluntly stated: “die young or join the club”.
Caroline also echoed Sian Berry’s thoughts on the need to go above and beyond existing legislation, stating:
“However these policies, while vital, are not alone sufficient. TheHouseShop has provided a valuable service in drawing attention to the specific problems relating to the poor marketing of accessible homes. It is, for example, quite unacceptable that sales representatives don’t even understand the basic difference between Lifetime Homes (which are built to be easily adaptable) and homes that are already wheelchair accessible.
Accessibility of properties should be seen as a selling point, yet at present it seems far too many staff involved in the process are poorly informed and unable to match the needs of disabled people with the accessible properties that are now being built for their use.”
It is certainly encouraging to see London’s potential future leaders affirm their commitment to accessible and adaptable housing for disabled residents. However, it is important that we go beyond the confines of London and take steps to address the issue of disabled-access housing at a national level, as TheHouseShop’s Franki Chaffin-Edwards explains:
“Thanks to the mandatory Lifetime Homes standard that has been imposed for new build properties in London, we have been able to help hundreds of disabled home-hunters who have come to us looking for accessible and adaptable housing. However we have been frustrated by our inability to help the countless other home-hunters who are desperately seeking accessible homes outside of the capital.”
“We believe that the time has come to impose new national regulations for the provision of higher quality accessible homes, so that disabled residents right across the UK can find a home that allows them to live comfortably and independently.”
“From our experience running both TheHouseShop.com and the Accessible Property Register, we have gained a rare insight into this sector and we would whole-heartedly advocate a nationwide approach to solving the accessible housing crisis.”
With increasing deregulation at central government level, the winner of the Mayoral election will be instrumental in determining the future of accessible housing for London’s disabled community. But while the future for London’s accessible housing market seems bright, the same cannot necessarily be said for the rest of the UK, so we must continue to strive for a housing market that works for everyone.
You can view the list of questions posed to the Mayoral candidates and their full responses here:https://www.thehouseshop.com/mayoral-candidates-on-accessible-housing
As a disabled person looking for a new home, your options are severely limited. Existing housing stock is poorly categorised when it comes to accessibility, and it is nigh on impossible for a disabled home-hunter to find a property that will allow them to live independently through the traditional means. This is why the government’s accessibility policies, laid out in the London Plan, have been crucial in bringing new build accessible homes onto the market.
A recent report looking into the implementation of accessible housing policies in London has found that forward-thinking policies have been severely undermined by ineffective training and marketing. The publication of the report by property portal TheHouseShop.com, comes just as the government have announced their intention to scrap the Lifetime Homes initiative and move away from mandatory requirements on accessible property provision.
You can view the full report ‘Accessible Housing Policies Failing in Practice: Disabled community failed by policies designed to help’ here: www.thehouseshop.com/accessible-housing-report
TheHouseShop.com is the UK’s first whole-market property portal, showcasing listings from direct sellers, private landlords, online agents and high street agents, all in one place. We are the only major portal where consumers can advertise their homes, for sale or to rent, alongside professional listings - unlike other agent-only portals.
We have over a decade of experience working in the accessible property niche market and we have developed an accessible property search that allows disabled home-hunters to filter property search results by accessibility.
TheHouseShop have recently taken over the UK’s largest dedicated accessible property website, The Accessible Property Register, and are now offering a comprehensive marketing service for accessible homes to both estate agents and individual homeowners.