Lifetime Homes Standard – how does it help those with disabilities?
By: Philippa Harrington, On: 18 March 2020
Finding or adapting properties that cater to a wide range of different accessibility needs can be extremely challenging. It can also cost a huge amount of money that’s impossible to ever fully make back when selling your home. However, thanks to industry guidelines, some new-build properties offer an exciting solution!
The Lifetime Homes Standard is shaping the way in which residential council houses are built and laid out. It makes the addition of disability access and other criteria ‘standard practice’ in increasing numbers of the new properties being built to boost the UK’s stock of affordable social housing.
This Lifetime Homes Standard guide explains the background to this set of specifications, as well as its impact and the benefits it provides for homeowners with disabilities.
What does the Lifetime Homes Standard cover?
The aim of the Lifetime Homes Standard is simple. It is to create properties that are designed to last a lifetime! In other words, homes that are suitable for a range of age and abilities, that people can continue to live in as their needs change.
This means having properties that are accessible to people with disabilities, or that can be adapted easily to cater for the needs of residents who need adjustments due to a decline in mobility over time.
Clearly then, the Lifetime Homes Standard can be applied for properties that young families or couples live in, too! Then, as their needs change over time, the home can be updated to match.
The housing stock of the UK will have more homes that people can live in for the rest of their lives, in comfort and without costly improvements.
However, the main target audience for the Lifetime Homes Standard is people with a permanent or temporary disability. Those in this situation will be able to buy homes that offer improved opportunities for independent living, improving daily life.
The background to the Lifetime Homes Standard
This standard for the way these homes should be built was first created by a philanthropic organisation called the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. It created the Lifetime Homes Group in 1991 to establish a template for how social housing should be constructed.
In 2010, the standard became the responsibility of a new organisation called the Foundation for Lifetime Homes and Neighbourhoods. This is a partnership between the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), Age UK and a housing association set up by the charity Scope (Habinteg).
What are the criteria in the Lifetime Homes Standard?
The standard contains criteria that aim to improve accessibility and inclusive design when a new home is built.
Alongside accessibility and inclusive design, the standard calls for adaptability, sustainability and affordability.
These principles are further broken down into 16 areas of focus to meet the Lifetime Homes Standard:
- Car parking ‘footprint’.
- Easy access from the car parking area to the door.
- Home approach.
- The property entrances.
- Stairs and lifts that are communal.
- Internal hallways and doorways.
- Enough space for easy movement.
- Adequate living room.
- Bed space that’s accessible.
- A WC and potentially a shower that are fully accessible.
- Bathroom walls.
- Potential to get upstairs – with feasibility for a future stairlift or floor lift.
- Way to pass between the bathroom and bedroom – with possible hoist fitting.
- Logical bathroom layout.
- Accessible windows.
- Accessible controls and plug sockets.
The impact of the Standard
The Standard has not yet become nationally applied across all Local Authority planning departments, though some require that it is used for public-funded housing projects and some recommend that it is used. In Wales and Northern Ireland the Lifetime Homes Standard is an integral part of any public-funded housing.
There is now regular news coverage of social housing projects that will involve properties built to the Lifetime Homes Standard. For example, in January 2020, Oxford City Council announced it would be building new social housing that meets the criteria in the Standard.
One of the things helping to ‘cement’ the Lifetime Homes Standard as a workable and preferable solution is the news that one of the developments which meets the criteria has won a top industry award. The innovative Goldsmith Street development in Norwich scooped the prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) Stirling Prize in 2019, the first council-backed housing to ever win this accolade!
Benefits of a new build within the Standard
Unfortunately, at this stage, council-funded housing does not universally embrace the Lifetime Homes Standard. You would be advised to check with your Local Authority and explore the aims of social housing projects in your area.
When you do find places in which the Lifetime Homes Standard has been applied, it makes new-build social housing an excellent option. You can move in with the reassurance that the exterior and interior of the property has been designed and built to match all those important accessibility aims. Further adaptation for specific or worsening disabilities will also be more feasible and affordable.