LibLink: Victor Chamberlain: Local authorities still hold the key to accessible housing

Southwark Lib Dem Councillor Victor Chamberlain has written for Inside Housing about providing suitable housing for disabled people.

He sets out the problem:

It’s over a century since the ground breaking Addison Act of 1919, passed under Liberal Prime Minister David Lloyd George, laid the foundation for social housing in the UK. Despite significant progress since then, it’s disheartening that we still grapple with fundamental challenges of providing quality and suitable housing for everyone. This is particularly true for disabled people who lack a range of suitable housing options, especially adequate numbers of accessible and adaptable homes. 

Accessible housing is not just a matter of convenience; it is a fundamental human right that directly impacts individuals’ safety, independence, and quality of life. Accessibility features and home adaptions also prevent avoidable hospital admissions and care home placements. Every £1 invested in housing adaptations is worth in more than £2 in care savings and quality of life gains. It’s a win-win scenario that cannot be ignored, particularly at a time when social care budgets face unprecedented strain.

The Disabled Facilities Grant, intended to fund housing adaptations, is woefully insufficient to meet demand. The £30,000 cap on expenditure per home is outdated and inadequate, leaving many unable to afford the necessary modifications. Consequently, local councils are forced to cover the shortfall from overstretched social care budgets, exacerbating financial strain and limiting resources for other essential services.

He cites the example of a disabled resident who has waited 22 years for a home that meets her needs.

The solution, he argues, lies in social housing as the private rented sector cannot meet people’s needs.

We need to empower local authorities to regain their historic role as builders of affordable homes and deliver the 100,000 social homes annually that are desperately required. The LGA are calling on Government to implement a comprehensive six-point plan to provide funding, skills, powers and confidence to enable this. Councils have intimate knowledge of communities and their diverse needs, and are uniquely positioned to address the specific challenges faced by residents with disabilities. 

We need to learn the lessons of history and recognise that councils are not just well-placed but essential actors in delivering accessible housing for all. Empowering local authorities with the necessary resources, funding, and autonomy is not just a matter of policy; it’s a moral imperative. 

As we face the first election since the centenary of the Addison Act’s implementation, we must recommit to the principles of social justice and inclusivity that underpinned it. We cannot be an inclusive society if we continue to overlook the housing needs of people with disabilities. It is time for government, local authorities, developers, and society as a whole to come together to prioritise accessibility, and ensure all individuals have access to housing that meets their needs and enables them to live with dignity and independence. 

You can read the whole article here.

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3 Comments

  • nigel hunter 23rd Feb '24 - 10:48am

    Affordable housing is 80% of actual market value of a house. Social RENT is 30% 0f house market value. We need MORE social RENT homes that are interspersed with disabled properties. That way neighbours can act as wardens to the disabled.
    Low wage families can then be able to use any disposable income on boosting the economy and not have it spent on food or heating. that should be part of every day necessary spending .expenditure

  • Steve Trevethan 23rd Feb '24 - 12:42pm

    Might a significant part of the lack of affordable housing lie with an extractive banking system and a lack of competition for the private sector?

    Might a not-for-excessive-profit national bank with branches where people need them and the provision of not-for-excessive-profit homes help?

  • Nigel Jones 23rd Feb '24 - 1:56pm

    Thank you Nigel Hunter for the definitions of affordable and social housing. On the statistics programme last week (‘More or Less’) a government statement was revealed as a gross distortion of the truth. It is claimed that 700,000 social homes have been built since 2010, but they have changed the definition to include affordable rented homes, which as you say is not far below the market rent and therefore now very high rent. By contrast it was revealed that we actually now have 100,000 LESS social homes than in 2010, due to selling and not replacing so many of them. The situation is even worse if you include the many that were sold before 2010.

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