Member voices heard at the House of Commons

Propertymark was invited to give evidence to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee (LUHCC) as part of their inquiry into the role the UK Government, local councils and developers have in ensuring the delivery of suitable housing for disabled people, and what the UK Government can do to support disabled tenants in the private rented sector.

Houses of Parliament flying the union flag

Timothy Douglas, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Propertymark urged the UK Government to make a long-term commitment to ensuring all people with disabilities have reliable access to appropriate homes with security of tenure, in the right location for them to access their support networks and required specialist services.

Evidence from our member agents showed that 64% of sales agents and 62% of letting agents said it was difficult or very difficult for people with disabilities to secure accessible or adapted homes.

Why is there a shortfall of homes? 

During the committee session, on Monday 5 February, MPs asked why there is such a significant shortfall of accessible properties both to buy and to rent. Douglas referenced the overall, long-term lack of sufficient housebuilding, which has led to a shortage of all kinds of homes, not just those adapted for disabled people.

Our members have told us that a variety of property types are required to meet the needs of people with different disabilities. Whilst some existing properties can be adapted, in areas such as Bath which have a lot of older or listed buildings this can be much more difficult and expensive to do. 

View a recording of the committee session  →

Retired couple getting key off estate agent
22 Nov 2023
More new supported and specialist homes are needed

Landlords are not supported to adapt homes

A member of the LUHCC questioned why it might be that although 19% of disabled people live in private rented housing, only 8% of Disabled Facilities Grant funding is spent in the sector.

Over 65% of Propertymark member agents were unaware of the Disabled Facilities Grant and a further 15% knew very little about it, and therefore they were not equipped to signpost landlords and tenants who may need to access it.

Where agents and landlords are aware of the funding, the process is long and inflexible. Landlords applying to adapt their properties must have a resident disabled tenant, and so cannot proactively adapt their properties and make them available for future tenants. In one case, the application process took so long that the tenant died before adaptations could be made to his home.

We have previously called for better relationships between local authorities and private landlords, and a key opportunity would be for local authorities to keep a database of adapted properties so that they could signpost tenants to suitable private rented homes.

Wheel chair access to property.jpg
25 Aug 2023
Level the playing field on accessible homes for disabled people

Funding has not kept pace with rising costs

The amount of money awarded by disabled facilities grant funding is often not enough to cover the cost of the changes that are needed, especially in older properties where structural work may be necessary.

The overall funding pot is also not adequate to meet demand, so in some cases, local authorities are filling the gaps with money that is allocated for adult social care.

Aspiring homeowners disadvantaged

According to the English Housing Survey, in 2019 42.2% of disabled people owned their own home compared with 53.2% of non-disabled people.

To boost homeownership amongst this group we recommend increasing the provision of specialist help to buy and shared equity schemes, and widening the eligibility criteria so more people can take advantage of them.

The schemes that exist at present, such as Home Ownership for People with Long-term Disabilities (HOLD) are means-tested based on household income, restricted to first-time buyers and exclude disabled people who are in work.

National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

Propertymark believes the NPPF should place greater emphasis on the needs of disabled people. Not only should individual developments include homes designed to accommodate people with disabilities, but accessibility should be built in at the strategic level.

Consent should only be given to residential developments where there is clear evidence of sufficient provision for accessibility and inclusion.

Raising accessibility standards for new homes

We believe that to meet disabled people’s housing needs, the ‘accessible and adaptable’ standard should be adopted as the minimum, except where this is impractical and unachievable. In addition, there should be a mandatory percentage of homes that meet the fully accessible standard, and this should be reflected in Local Development Plans.

FAQ Wheelchair access to property.jpg
01 Sep 2021
FAQs: National Disability Strategy (UK)

Local planning decisions

The local planning authority determines if higher standards of accessibility are required for each development as a condition of planning permission. However, they often do not have sufficient data to properly understand the current and future need for accessible housing.

This data must be improved, and the UK Government should back local plans by incentivising developers to build more homes to higher accessibility specifications.

This could be done through grant funding, or by allowing local authorities to transfer a proportion of their Section 108 obligations from affordable to accessible housing where there is a local need.

We are very pleased that the LUHCC recognises the value of the insight Propertymark members can provide on this and other housing issues.  

The Renters (Reform) Bill is an opportunity to level the playing field on accessibility, but the removal of fixed term tenancies could lead to a less secure system for making adaptations to properties because there is no guaranteed length of tenure to make costly works viable.

Fixed term tenancies must be retained as an option, and the UK Government should consider incentives for landlords to retain any adaptations that have been made to properties once a disabled tenant moves on.

We strongly encourage local authorities to cooperate with agents and landlords to create local accessible housing registers and work together to proactively match people to suitable homes.

Timothy Douglas Serious
Timothy Douglas Head of Policy and Campaigns | Propertymark
Download our written evidence in full