By Mark Dawes, Managing Director, CAD Architects
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has recently announced it will change building regulations to strengthen rules around the accessibility features that new homes must have. This announcement on 29th July 2022 has been made nearly two years after the initial consultation was carried out in 2020.
The regulatory changes will raise accessibility standards for new housing schemes in an attempt to help older and disabled people and to future-proof England’s homes.
All new homes will have to have step-free access to every entrance-level room under the government’s proposed changes to the Building Regulations.
As well as the requirement for step-free access, the proposals include ‘further features to make homes more easily adaptable over time, supporting people to live independent lives’. These could include, for example, slightly wider doorways and corridors.
The shortage of accessible homes has been growing and this move marks a significant step towards resolving the looming housing crisis, especially given the increasingly ageing population in the UK. The Foreword to the announcement from the Secretary of State said: ‘It’s vital that we start building more accessible housing for older and disabled people now. People are living longer lives and the proportion of older people in the population is increasing. In mid-2018, there were 1.6 million people aged 85 years and over; by mid-2043, this is projected to nearly double to 3.0 million. As our population ages, the numbers of disabled people will also continue to increase.’
The government said the proposed changes would allow people to live more independently in their own homes and would create properties fit for successive generations, ‘saving costs associated with moving or adapting homes’.
In London, step-free access to the front door has been a requirement for many years and it is now proposed that the rest of the country follows this lead, creating a new national standard.
It is worth noting that the London Plan makes an exception for minor housing developments on small sites. The new national regulations may also include some limited exceptions of this kind.
The proposal will ask for all new homes to be built to Category 2: ‘Accessible and Adaptable Dwellings’ M4(2) as laid out in Part M of the Building Regulations, an upgrade from Category 1: ‘Visitable Dwellings’ M4(1).
The core principles for the M4(2) ‘Accessible and Adaptable Dwellings’, a reworking of the Lifetime Homes guidance, state that no one should have to move home should their lifestyle or situation change.
DLUHC says it will mandate the existing ‘optional’ M4 category 2 requirement for all new houses.
This measure, which requires homes to have step-free access and other features to make homes easily adaptable, currently only applies when planners have requested them as conditions.
The new requirement will replace the current mandatory ‘category 1’, a lower standard that ensures properties are capable of being visited by a wide range of people including wheelchair users.
The second consultation and the fine detail of exactly how the building regulations are to change have yet to be announced.
Meanwhile, there is ongoing debate around Category 3: Wheelchair User Dwellings M4(3) ‘Adaptable and Accessible’. The M4(2) type falls short of being a fully feasible space for a wheelchair user.
Disability Rights UK are pushing for a mandatory national quota of 10% of all new homes to be wheelchair accessible. However, a government spokesperson has said the UK Government does not plan to bring in a national requirement for a minimum proportion of homes to be built to a wheelchair accessible standard.
A second consultation will now be carried out on the detail of the changes to the building regulations and on the circumstances where exceptions to the rule should apply.
At CAD Architects, we welcome improving accessibility for new homes and will continue to ensure that all our architecture projects reflect the very highest standards.
If you would like to discuss your new build project and how your home can be made future-proof, contact email@example.com
The full report on the consultation outcome for ‘Raising Accessibility Standards for New Homes’ can be viewed here: