The next government should make all new homes accessible and adaptable, according to a coalition of housing and charity groups.
The organisation, which has called itself Housing Made for Everyone (HoME), includes Age UK, Riba (Royal Institute of British Architects), Disability Rights UK, the National Housing Federation, and the Chartered Institute of Housing.
It has published an open letter calling on the next government to take greater action to secure housing suitable for an ageing population and people living with disabilities.
It reads: “Without action, we face an ever-mounting bill, with councils spending greater sums on trying to adapt homes retrospectively and the costs to our health and social care systems spiralling.
“The cost to individuals is no less damaging. Now is the time to ensure that everyone’s right to a safe and accessible home is met, today and in the years to come.”
Anna Dixon, chief executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, which is part of the coalition, said: “We face a dangerous shortage of homes that are accessible and adaptable.
“Whilst it’s not inevitable, the likelihood is that most of us will experience disability or difficulties with activities of daily living at some point in our later life.
“And with more of us living for longer, this dire lack of accessible homes represents a ticking timebomb.
“Urgent action is needed to ensure we are building homes fit for the future, so that more of us are able to stay in our homes for longer and remain safe and independent.”
She said central government, local authorities and developers all have a role to play in ensuring that homes are safe, well-designed and flexible.
Councillor Darren Rodwell, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesman, said: “To tackle the shortage of suitable homes for older and disabled people, councils need greater planning powers and resources to hold developers to account, ensuring that they build the right homes in the right places needed by different groups within the local community.
“Accessibility features and home adaptations are also vital to help keep people safe and independent in their homes and prevent avoidable admissions to hospital and care homes.”
Sheron Carter, chief executive at accessible housing provider Habinteg, which co-chairs the coalition, said: “Recent research by Habinteg reveals that most people in Britain are not able to welcome a wheelchair user into their home due to poor access.
“This is the limiting reality of our current housing stock. So with increasing rates of disability and an ageing population it’s critical that new homes are built to standards that provide greater accessibility and adaptability.
“Unless we do this we’ll be running into a whole new type of housing crisis in the years to come.
“We’re heartened to see so many high-profile organisations joining forces to press for change on such a crucial issue.”