Campaigners fear the government could bow to pressure from the house-building lobby and delay the implementation of compulsory accessibility and adaptability standards for all new homes.
The Foundation for Lifetime Homes and Neighbourhoods – the accessible housing provider Habinteg, RADAR, Age UK and the Town and Country Planning Association – spoke out as it launched a new version of its Lifetime Homes Standard following a consultation.
The standard is a set of 16 design criteria – key features that should be included in the design of accessible and adaptable housing.
The foundation said it was vital that all new homes were designed according to the Lifetime Homes Standard, with 300,000 disabled and older people living in unsuitable housing.
The Labour government had agreed that all public sector housing in England would be built to the Lifetime Homes Standard from 2011 (it is already a requirement in Wales and Northern Ireland), with a target of 2013 for all private sector homes.
But it backed away from this commitment in last December’s pre-budget report, saying it wanted “a proportionate approach” and that any move to make the standard mandatory for all new homes would not be until 2013 “at the earliest”.
Labour’s review of Lifetime Homes policy is continuing under the new coalition government.
Andy Shipley, the foundation’s Lifetime Homes coordinator, said: “The government has committed to continuing the review but it is still unclear which way they are going to go with it and how committed they are to seeing Lifetime Homes as the way forward.”
And he warned that even the target for Lifetime Homes to be mandatory for all public sector homes by 2011 was now not guaranteed.
He said there was “considerable concern” that the government would bow to demands from housing developers for a “lighter regulatory touch” because of the state of the economy.
No-one from the Communities and Local Government department was available to comment.
The disabled peer Baroness [Rosalie] Wilkins, a patron of the foundation, has called on the government to consider “the range of social, health, welfare and economic savings” made by adopting the Lifetime Homes Standard.
During a Lords debate on affordable housing, she added: “In developing their social care policy, will the government include the benefits of the universal adoption of the Lifetime Homes Standard as an efficient way to support care delivery in the home?”
Baroness Hanham, the junior communities and local government minister, said that the Lifetime Homes Standard “remains an aspiration that should be met, even if not for every single home”.