Government gives developers five years to design all housing for use by elderly and disabled

Housebuilders have reacted with dismay to a government strategy to ensure all homes are fit for older and disabled people.

The government said this week it would give developers until 2013 to voluntarily meet the Lifetime Homes standard. It will then legislate if “take-up in the private sector has not matched market need or expectations”.

The Lifetime Homes standard will be wound into the Code for Sustainable Homes, and all social housing will meet the standard by 2011. The changes are contained in the National Strategy for Housing in an Ageing Society, published this week by the communities department.

It says that 48% of the demand for new housing before 2026 will come from older people.

The Lifetime Homes standard requires buildings to be designed for use by people confined to a wheelchair (see box, below).

The Home Builders Federation said the universal application of the standard would make homes less affordable and was “an insufficiently targeted response” to an ageing society.

Roger Humber, spokesperson for the House Builders Association, said there had been “inadequate consultation”. He said: “Given that most houses are bought by people between 25-50, we are asking ministers for urgent discussions.”

However social housing groups have criticised the government for not going far enough to meet the needs of older people. Housing association lobby group the National Housing Federation called the strategy a “step in the right direction”.

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What the standard entails:

  • Plumbing and drainage to allow ground-floor bathroom
  • Minimum width of stairs to allow stairlift
  • Minimum wheelchair turning spaces in halls, stairs and rooms
  • Windows sited so seated person can see out
  • Minimum door sizes
  • Level ground from car park to door
  • Possibility to convert ground-floor room to bedroom