Housebuilders are failing disabled homebuyers by cutting corners on disabled access
The latest research from new build snagging company, HouseScan, has found that not only is the number of new build homes being delivered to market with disabled access expected to fall throughout the next decade, but the ones that are being delivered are also unfit for purpose as housebuilders cut corners to maximise profits.
There are approximately 14.1m people living with a disability across the UK, around 21% of the total population. It’s thought that around 7.9m of these are working adults who face a tougher financial task when it comes to saving for a property, as living with a disability comes at an additional cost of £583 on average each month compared to those living without.
In addition to the tougher financial task, new build homebuyers with a disability also face a lower level of housing stock to choose from.
Not only has Covid caused new build housing delivery to fall by 45% per year, but research shows that over the next decade (2020-2030), the proportion of those new build homes built to accessible standards is predicted to fall from 34.4% to 31.5%.
This decline directly relates to accessible and adaptable homes (M4 Category 2) or wheelchair user dwellings (M4 Category 3). These homes provide additional features to the average new build including wider doors, stronger bathroom walls that can facilitate a grab-rail and greater circulation space for those in a wheelchair.
The latest figures show that 180,140 new build homes were completed across the UK over the last year. This reduced level of disabled accessible homes means that just 56,744 would have been fit for disabled new build homebuyers, over 5,000 less than the level delivered prior to 2020.
Over the course of a decade, a consistent rate of new build housing delivery would see over 1.8m homes delivered with just 567,441 of these fit for disabled homebuyers.
With both property prices and stock availability making it harder for disabled homebuyers to climb the property ladder, it’s hardly surprising that the 2019/20 figures show that just 40.9% of disabled people owned their own home - the lowest level in the last seven years.
However, HouseScan has also found that it isn’t just stock delivery that is failing disabled homebuyers, even the standard of homes reaching the market are unfit for purpose.
One such homebuyer to suffer from this and other housebuilder failings is John Gaskell, who bought a property from the development arm of Cambridge Housing Society Ltd, due to their claims of ethical housebuilding, which he soon found did not seem to extend to new-build homebuyers on his small development.
A snagging survey of John’s house by HouseScan found multiple failings by the developer, failings that John is still campaigning to have put right with his Homebuyers Fightback campaign, which has received the backing of local MPs and the former chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group that investigated problems in the new-build sector. In addition to the 150 defects found in the property, John also discovered that the developer had cut corners where the disabled access to his home was concerned, rendering the property to not meet basic Part M disabled access building regulations.
He was first alerted to the problem after HouseScan had inspected the problem. After the developer had pushed back on various areas of the report, despite there being clear violations of building regs, John instructed a registered expert witness to inspect the property, who reaffirmed the downstairs WC had not been built in accordance with disability access requirements. There is also a problem with an excessively steep pathway to the front door which would make it difficult for safe wheelchair entry.
John said that after reading both the detailed reports, it became clear that the developer could not have properly understood what is needed to accommodate the basic needs of wheelchair users, despite the clear diagrams and details in the building regulations and NHBC standard. If the house had been built one brick wider or the limited space been appropriately configured, the problems would not have arisen.
Mr Gaskell went on to say he was concerned that the CEO of a registered charity, which claims to support the disadvantaged and the disabled, who is also on the Board of the Cambridge Sub-regional Housing Board, had referred to the catalogue of problems in his new home as ‘ largely cosmetic or decorative’ in the local and national press. He has submitted the reports to the developer, along with an estimate for the cost of putting things right, but the CEO has not even replied.
Founder and Managing Director of HouseScan, Harry Yates, commented: “In this day and age, it’s just not acceptable that some housebuilders continue to cut corners, and quite frankly it’s appalling that they would allow such serious errors to occur where disabled access to a property is concerned.
Unfortunately, it’s a problem that we’re seeing more and more of in our work at HouseScan. The repercussions from serious, technical issues are far greater than those from your more common, aesthetic snagging issues. In some cases, these issues are severe enough to cast concern on whether or not the house should have been signed off in the first place.
Although we see many new homes that have been built to correct standards, the push for more new homes and the increasing amount of professional snagging inspections taking place means that we’re seeing more and more issues come to light, leaving home buyers uncertain and anxious about the quality of their homes.
While John is leading the charge in highlighting this issue, we would urge anyone who thinks they’ve been let down on any aspect of their new build to make themselves heard so that the handful of housebuilders who chance their luck on the life savings of their customers are held to account and the overall standard of new homes in the UK can improve.”