Accessible or adapted properties – do you know the difference?
A brief summary from Jacquel Runnalls, Co-opted Lead on Accessible Housing and Inclusive Design for the Royal College of Occupational Therapist’s Specialist Section in Housing (RCOTSS-Housing).
The NLA have teamed up with a range of key stakeholders in England to produce guidance on how landlords and the general public can access relevant advice, information, funding and assistance across the UK in relation to home adaptations and accessible housing. RCOTSS-Housing hope that this will encourage landlords to gain a more detailed understanding as to the untapped potential and ultimately undertake aspects such as carrying out adaptations, providing permission for tenants to do so, and realising in what way properties might offer key accessible features. All of these provide great opportunities for landlords to receive rental income for a housing resource which is scarce, hard for disabled and older tenants to find, but also with the added benefit of possible longer term, guaranteed lettings. This blog specifically aims to clarify common misunderstandings as to the differences between adaptations and accessible housing.
Whilst adaptations are extremely beneficial, adaptations do not always make a property ‘accessible’ per se, so using the term ‘adapted housing’ can be confusing and possibly misleading. Adaptations usually describe modifications to a person’s home to enable them, and those assisting, to live more independently, safely, and ultimately remain in the property longer. They range from minor alterations such as grabrails, a door intercom system, specialist lighting to more major adaptations such as a level access shower (wet room), stairlift or ramp. They are specific to the individual needs of a disabled and/or older tenant. However, this is not to say that certain adaptations won’t benefit other tenants in future.
Despite their wide-ranging benefits to both to the tenant and landlord, adaptations can sadly conjure up negative perceptions and images of something institutional, obtrusive and therefore detrimental to the look and potential for letting of a property. However, to dispel this myth, not only can they increase the likelihood of a person wishing to remain in the property, they can be carried out in an attractive, sympathetic, ‘inclusively designed’ way. A good example of this is a contemporary style wet room and most manufacturers/companies are aware of the increased appetite and marketability for this, particularly in recognition of our ageing population.
The principles of Inclusive design carry across to accessible (and easily adaptable) housing, with the hope that a property is not visibly ‘accessible’, except for understanding the benefits of key features such as level access into the property, wider doors and hallways, a ground floor toilet and shower. A well designed, accessible property is beneficial for everyone, from young families and children using buggies, to disabled and older people with poor mobility. It is widely evidenced that there is a dire shortage of accessible and adaptable housing across the UK, even to relatively basic standards with minimal initial outlay, but vast savings to the NHS, Social Care etc. There is also an increasing recognition as to the need for all new housing to be built to basic accessible and adaptable standards, in addition to wheelchair accessible housing.