The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has called on the government to progress higher accessibility standards in new-build homes.
In its written evidence for a Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) select committee inquiry into housing for people with disabilities, the body said the government “must prioritise” a technical consultation on the implementation of M4(2) standards as a minimum accessibility level.
The M4(2) homes standard, introduced in changes to Part M of the Building Regulations made in 2015, requires a certain level of accessibility and adaptability. The highest-standard M4(3) homes are designed for wheelchair accessibility.
M4(2) homes require a living area at entrance level, step-free access to all entrance-level rooms and facilities, wider doorways and corridors, and clear access routes to windows.
The buildings should be designed to be able to adapt over time to the changing needs of residents, through features including stairs designed to fit a stair lift or washroom facilities that allow for the easy installation of grab rails.
A 2020 DLUHC select committee consultation suggested mandating M4(2) standards in all new-build homes. The consultation concluded the lower standard M4(1) should be implemented in new-build housing only where M4(2) is deemed impractical and unachievable.
It also criticised the latest version of the National Planning Policy Framework, published in December, for not explicitly ensuring compliance with the 2010 Equality Act.
The organisation said that many of its members had an understanding that the minimum standard of new homes would become the M4(2) adaptable standard in the near future, but had not yet implemented changes due to a lack of guidance.
The CIOB also criticised long wait times for the government’s Disabled Facilities Grant, a council grant available to disabled people who need to adapt their homes.
Citing a survey by the Equality and Human Rights Commission that suggested it takes an average of eight weeks for a decision and 14 weeks to install, the CIOB suggested that waiting times could be reduced through simplifying means testing or getting rid of it completely.
It also noted there is currently only enough funding to fulfil around 10 per cent of applications that each council receives.
Crossbench peer Lord Best asked the government yesterday (5 February) when it would implement its decision to require all new homes to meet M4(2) standards, noting that 220,000 properties had been built since the government announced the measure in July 2022.
DLUHC junior minister Baroness Penn said that the government was waiting on the Building Safety Regulator to produce a further technical consultation and could not give a specific timeframe.