Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said he was concerned that too many houses were being built with steps that prevent level access or with corridors that were too narrow for users of wheelchairs or walking frames.
The consultation paper, Raising accessibility standards for new homes, seeks views on options to raise the accessibility of new homes. In particular, it considers how the accessible and adaptable standard for homes (known as M4(2) in Part M of the Building Regulations) and the wheelchair user standard (known as M4(3)) are currently used as optional technical standards.
The document says: “We want to build more accessible homes that meet the needs of older and disabled people. The provision of appropriate housing for older and disabled people is crucial in helping them to live safe and independent lives. An ageing population will see the numbers of disabled people continuing to increase and it is important we plan early to meet their needs.”
The ministry is seeking views on five broad options that it has drawn up. Any changes to standards would only apply to new homes, not to the refurbishment of existing homes.
Option 1: Consider how recently revised planning policy on the use of optional technical standards impacts on delivery of accessible housing.
Option 2: To mandate the current M4(2) requirement in Building Regulations as a minimum standard for all new homes, with M4(1) applying by exception only where M4(2) is impractical and unachieveable (e.g a new build flat above a garage). M4(3) would apply where there is a local planning policy in place in which a need has been identified and evidenced.
Option 3: Remove M4(1) altogether, so that all new homes will have to at least have the accessible and adaptable features of an M4(2) home. M4(3) would apply where there is a local planning policy in place in which a need has been identified and evidenced. This would mean that no new homes could be built as M4(1).
Option 4: To mandate the current M4(2) requirement in Building Regulations as a minimum standard for all new homes with M4(1) applying by exception only, a set percentage of M4(3) homes would also need to be applied in all areas. So rather than local authorities setting a local planning policy for the provision of M4(3), a defined and constant percentage would apply to all new housing.
Option 5: Change the content of the mandatory technical standard. This could be done by upgrading the statutory guidance to create a revised M4(1) minimum standard. This revised standard could be pitched between the existing requirements of M4(1) and M4(2), adding more accessible features into the minimum standard.
The estimated additional cost per new dwelling is about £1,400 for units that would not already meet M4(2). The ministry estimate that 10% of new dwellings already meet or exceed M4(2), and that this percentage would grow over time even without government intervention, to 30% by 2030.
The consultation closes on 1st December 2020.