The government has been criticised by disabled campaigners and the equality watchdog after its new social housing green paper failed to include a single mention of the accessible housing crisis.
Only three months ago, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) warned that more than 350,000 disabled people in England had unmet housing needs, with one-third of those in private rented accommodation and one-fifth of those in social housing living in unsuitable properties.
EHRC called in its report for the government to draw up a national strategy to ensure an adequate supply of new homes built to inclusive design standards.
But this week’s social housing green paper, described by communities secretary James Brokenshire as a “new deal” for social housing residents – those who pay rent at below market levels – does not mention accessible housing once.
The word “accessible” only appears in the 78-page document four times, on each occasion relating to the need for accessible information or complaints procedures.
The green paper does refer to supported housing, which it explains has a “key role to play” in supporting minority groups including people with mental ill-health, learning difficulties and other disabled people.
But there are no proposals to improve supported housing, other than referring to a U-turnannounced last week, in which ministers said that it would continue to be funded through the social security system rather than being devolved to local authorities as originally planned.
The green paper also mentions an ongoing review of the disabled facilities grant (DFG), which provides funding to make disabled people’s homes more accessible, for example by widening doorways or installing ramps, and which will see spending increase from £220 million in 2015-16 to £505 million in 2019-20.
But there are no new proposals for increasing the supply of accessible housing, or even requests for ideas on how the accessible housing crisis could be addressed.
Ellen Clifford, campaigns and policy manager for Inclusion London, said that reading the green paper and realising its failure to mention the crisis in accessible housing – despite the conclusions reached in the EHRC report – had been a “chilling” experience.