New Scots affordable homes built too small for wheelchairs

Scotland's next generation of affordable homes will be too small for many disabled people who rely on wheelchairs or other mobility aids, according to the government's own research.
There are concerns new properties will not be big enough for many disabled people. Picture: fileThere are concerns new properties will not be big enough for many disabled people. Picture: file
There are concerns new properties will not be big enough for many disabled people. Picture: file

Ministers have committed to invest £3 billion in building at least 50,000 new properties by 2021, with the aim of tackling the nation’s chronic housing shortage.

But research commissioned by the government says many will be unsuitable for disabled and elderly people, as the standards being followed do not allow sufficient floor space for wheelchairs. Almost 10,000 disabled people across the country are waiting for more suitable council houses. Figures from 26 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities showed that some have been waiting for decades to move, with one disabled person in Stirling first requesting a change of property in 1969.

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The charity Inclusion Scotland said a lack of accessible housing around the country was leaving disabled people “trapped” in their own homes, describing the situation as “unacceptable”.

Although 35,000 of Scotland’s 50,000 planned affordable homes are being built to construction guidance called “Housing for Varying Needs”, this does not take into account the extra floor space needed by people who use wheelchairs or mobility aids.

Research commissioned by the Scottish Government from architects Anderson Bell Christie highlighted the problem, but Inclusion Scotland said it had still not been acknowledged by ministers.

In a report in May last year, the authors said the Housing for Varying Needs guidance will improve the accessibility of most homes, but added: “None of these ‘barrier-free’ standards offer full accessibility for wheelchair users, as this would involve a significant increase in floor area.”

They continued: “While there are ‘pockets’ of expertise in housing for wheelchair users, there is confusion and some complacency as to what constitutes wheelchair design standards.

“Often homes designed to accessible, barrier-free design standards are seen as suitable for wheelchair users without an understanding of their greater space requirements.”

Inclusion Scotland is calling for ministers to set a national target for new build developments, with the aim of making at least 10 per cent of their properties wheelchair accessible or easily adaptable.

Scottish Labour’s housing spokeswoman Pauline McNeill said it was “truly shocking” that ministers had apparently ignored the advice of the research they had commissioned.

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Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “Work is under way to develop guidance for local authorities and other stakeholders on the need to set a realistic target for the delivery of wheelchair accessible housing across all tenures.”