We are, of course, sympathetic to the plight of housebuilders in the current economic climate, but we are deeply concerned by any suggestion that the Lifetime Homes standard should be dropped as part of a review of regulatory “red tape” (30 October, page 19)
For many, the application of these standards is a significant breakthrough in the recognition of an ageing population that requires basic and fundamental improvements in the accessibility and design of all new homes.
The government recognised that the housing needs of older people was no longer a marginal issue, but part of a continuing mainstream demand in the housing market. Many more of us now wish to remain living independently in our own homes for longer.
However, the current housing stock often makes adaptation expensive and difficult to carry out. Lifetime Homes standards ensure that basic design features are incorporated into new homes that are easier to adapt at a relatively low cost. We must consider the savings and benefits over the longer term rather than taking a blanket approach to regulation based on short-term gain.
Based on figures produced by the communities department, the costs of Lifetime Homes could be as low as £500 per property. We think this is a small price to pay for the huge benefits these standards offer to all homebuyers. We are convinced that more homebuyers will demand accessible housing features as standard in the same way that we are seeing demand for energy efficient housing, as economies of scale bring down the overall costs.
We must seriously pause to consider whether we want to continue building more homes that fail basic accessibility requirements. Housebuilders with foresight will realise that Lifetime Homes will be to their commercial advantage as the housing market evolves to reflect demographic change and consumer demand.
Joe Oldman, housing adviser, Age Concern and Help the Aged