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Adaptable, accessible, affordable: housing for disabled and older people

Read about our recent contributions to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee inquiry on disabled people in the housing sector, and our roundtable discussion with the Older People’s Housing Taskforce. RIBA's Senior Policy Advisor, Charlotte Watson, offers a concise overview of our recent work on accessible housing provision.

14 February 2024

Working towards high-quality, affordable and accessible housing provision has long been a key policy priority for RIBA, both as an organisation and as part of the cross-sector Housing Made for Everyone (HoME) Coalition.

On delivering accessible housing in particular, the last week gave us the chance to shine a light on the progress that has been made, and what work we as a sector must continue to push for.  

We were pleased to see the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee launch its inquiry into disabled people in the housing sector in the latter half of 2023, focusing on what must be done to support the delivery of accessible provision. Following our written evidence in September, RIBA’s Executive Director for Professional Knowledge and Standards, Adrian Dobson, was invited to give evidence at an in-person session

The session helped the committee gain expert insight on a range of barriers to increasing provision – from challenges around viability assessments to evidencing accessible housing need through local plans – while also taking the chance to identify best practice.

We emphasised the vital importance of the government finally releasing the long-awaited consultation on implementing Part M4(2) of the Building Regulations as the new baseline accessibility standard for new homes, which would ensure all new homes are “adaptable and accessible”.   

Alongside this, we raised concerns about the impact of resource gaps in local planning authorities to ensure high quality, accessible homes are brought forward. The role of existing housing stock in meeting demand for accessible housing was also discussed during the session, with more thought needed on how we can provide high quality home adaptations.   

Garnering cross-party support and understanding of accessible housing provision, and our work to promote it, is key to removing the barriers which stand in the way of delivering it at the pace and scale we need. We continue to work with the committee to demonstrate the role that architects can play in creating high-quality, sustainable buildings and places.  

However, our efforts to highlight accessible housing didn’t end there. We also hosted a roundtable alongside the Older People’s Housing Taskforce (OPHT), which has been appointed by the government to examine choice, quality and security in older people’s housing.

Running for up to 12 months from May 2023, it will then produce an independent report and recommendations to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). 

Housing for older people should be a priority - The Planner (Image Creator: aldomurillo)

Chaired by OPHT member Lord Best, and with opening remarks from RIBA President Muyiwa Oki, the roundtable comprised of taskforce members, architects, planners and experts in older people’s housing provision. It discussed best practice in design for both housing and the wider public realm to prioritise age-friendly and inclusive access.

Focusing both on the importance of accessible and adaptable housing provision and a wider exploration of inclusive and accessible placemaking, the roundtable was a valuable chance to share learnings and work towards facilitating innovative approaches to age-friendly design.  

Chair of the OPHT, Professor Julienne Meyer CBE, said: 

Older people’s housing matters – getting it right can make a huge difference to their wellbeing, health, ability to live independently, and quality of life. We want homes for older people that are designed with their needs in mind, and are situated in a wider public realm which supports healthy ageing.   

I am incredibly grateful to the wide range of architects and design experts who gathered with the taskforce on 8 February and who shared their expertise with us so generously.  I’d also like to thank the Royal Institute of British Architects, and its President, Muyiwa Oki, for their support to our work through hosting this event.” 

RIBA’s accessibility work reaches far wider than that of just the Policy and Public Affairs team. Thursday also saw the RIBA Public Programmes team host Many More Parts than M! at 66 Portland Place in London, launching a new compendium by The DisOrdinary Architecture Project, reimagining disability, inclusion and access beyond compliance.

The 2023 launch of the Inclusive Design Overlay to the RIBA Plan of Work is another example of our commitment to centring inclusive design principles, featuring contributions from over 100 professionals with experience spanning over 25 different built environment professions.  

The recommendations of both the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee inquiry and the OPHT will be pivotal in mobilising improvements to accessible housing provision. Meanwhile, the RIBA Policy and Public Affairs team continues to engage with government and Parliament to prioritise quality, sustainability and accessibility in the built environment.   

Find out more about the ongoing work from RIBA's Policy and Public Affairs team.

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