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New homes will be required to have step-free access to all entrance level rooms under beefed up standards for accessible homes, the government announced today.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) today announced it will change building regulations to strengthen rules around the accessibility features new homes must have.

eddie hughes

Following a consultation, DLUHC said it will mandate the existing ‘optional’ M4 category 2 requirement for all new dwelllings.

This requirement, which requires homes to have step-free access and other features to make homes easily adaptable, currently only applies when planners have requested them as conditions. The new requirement will replace the current mandatory ‘category 1’, a lower standard that ensures properties are capable of being visited by a wide range of people including wheelchair users.

DLUCH said 98% of around 400 responses to the consultation were in favour of the change.

Eddie Hughes, minister for rough sleeping and housing, said: “Older and disabled people must have homes which are suitable for their needs, and allow them to live comfortably and independently.

“This consultation has made clear raising the accessibility standard of new homes is supported not just by people who use accessible homes, but by industry and wider stakeholders as well. With that mandate, we are forging ahead with the next steps to make this a reality.”

The proposed change was described as a “victory” by Christina McGill, director of social impact & external affairs, accessible homes specialist housing association Habinteg, and co-chair of the Housing Made for Everyone (HoME) campaign coalition.

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McGill said: “It’s encouraging to see this announcement after seven years of campaigning. Raising the mandatory access standard will remove many of the barriers currently limiting the number of accessible and adaptable homes being built and help deliver great quality inclusive housing that suits a wide range of people.”

McGill added that local authorities should “start thinking about how they will be able to use freed up resources to plan for sufficient wheelchair standard housing.”

A spokesperson however said Habinteg regrets that the government does not plan to bring in a national requirement for a minimum proportion of homes to be built to a wheelchair accessible standard.

A second consultation will now be carried out on the detail of the changes and on the circumstances where exceptions to the rule should apply.