Tuesday, 6 July 2021
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
220. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the extent to which he anticipates an improvement in terms of accessibility to all new build dwellings in order to facilitate in the widest way possible the needs of persons with disabilities in preference to retrospective provision of such facilities with obvious value for money benefits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36469/21]
The Programme for Government commits to ensuring that there is an appropriate mix of housing design types provided, including universally designed units, and accommodation for older people and people with disabilities. Securing and enhancing the accessibility of these new build dwellings to meet the identified needs of persons with disabilities forms the basis of a number of approaches by Government across housing types and tenures.
Local authorities are responsible for the provision of social housing in their areas, and, therefore, decide on the number and specific types of dwellings to provide in their developments, based on identified need.Social housing is built to the design standards set out in the guidelines 'Quality Housing for Sustainable Communities' available at www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/migrated-files/en/Publications/DevelopmentandHousing/Housing/FileDownLoad%2C1979%2Cen.pdf.
In preparing these Guidelines, particular account was taken of the objectives of government policy on sustainability, including access for people with disabilities and meeting the varied needs of occupants through their lifetime. The design approach to social housing seeks to eliminate barriers to accessibility for all users - particularly older people, and those with mobility impairment or other disability. Where units are being designed for those with disabilities, the Guidelines refer to the National Disability Authority publication 'Building for Everyone: Inclusion, Access and Use'.
More recently, the Housing Agency published a Roadmap titled 'Designing Housing to Meet the Needs of All' which has specific regard to the principles of universal design. www.housingagency.ie/sites/default/files/2019-07/Designing-Housing-to-meet-the-needs-of-all.pdf.
It also remains the case that all new buildings and extensions or material alterations to existing buildings must comply with the legal minimum performance standards set out in the Building Regulations 1997 - 2019. In this context, the Building Regulations (Part M Amendment) Regulations 2010, and the accompanying Technical Guidance Document M – Access and Use (2010), which came into effect on 1 January 2012, set out the minimum statutory requirements that a building must achieve in respect of access.
Part M of the Building Regulations aims to foster an inclusive approach to the design and construction of the built environment. While the Part M requirements may be regarded as a statutory minimum level of provision, the accompanying technical guidance encourages building owners and designers to have regard to the design philosophy of universal design and to consider making additional provisions where practicable and appropriate.
In addition, the joint policy statement Housing Options for Our Ageing Population, launched by my Department and the Department of Health in 2019 sets out an Action on universal design to “In partnership with industry, introduce measures to ensure that over a five year period delivery is increased to ensure that 30% of all new dwellings are built to incorporate universal design principles to accommodate our ageing population.” The recent launch of the agefriendlyhomes.ie website means that an array of information to support the development of Age Friendly Housing, such as case studies, research, funding information and design templates are now available and further measures to deliver on this commitment are being advanced by my Department.
Finally, there is a review currently underway of the National Housing Strategy for People with a Disability examining all of the areas of concern to people with disabilities, including the accessibility of social housing. Issues arising for wheelchair users are being considered as part of the review, and the Irish Wheelchair Association are being consulted as important stakeholders. The second round of consultation for the review will be held in the Autumn and a new Strategy will take effect in January 2022.