Agenda item

Response on Homes for Life and Ageing Population Housing Questions

Report number: OAS/WS/22/004



The Committee received report number: OAS/WS/22/004, which had been prepared following a request on 12 March 2020, which came from discussions relating to the West Suffolk Housing Strategy Implementation Plan 2018 to 2023: Year 1 Review.  The report provided responses to two questions raised:


-      How many Homes for Life are being built; and

-      What is specifically being built for the ageing population?


The report explained the terminology, history of the change and current policy standards being used to meet housing need across West Suffolk.


How many Homes for Life are being built?


The Cabinet Member for Planning informed the Committee that West Suffolk Council did not hold any data for the number of homes that had been developed as “Homes for Life or Lifetime Homes”.  There was no longer a recognised standard and there were currently no records of homes that had been or were being built.  However, the following information provided showed how the previous standard had evolved to the current development standard which replaced Homes for Life.


In February 2008 the UK Government announced its aim for all new homes to be built to Lifetime Homes Standards by 2013.  By 2015, the Government’s ‘housing standards review’ led to the Lifetime Homes standards being replaced by the building regulations standards M.


The building regulations being utilised across West Suffolk for the purpose of having accessible and adaptable dwellings was specifically M4(2) and M4(3).  All developments were expected to meet this as a minimum standard.


M4(2): Category 2 – Accessible and adaptable dwellings


M4(2) was the standard which West Suffolk was recommending 100% of its developments through the Local Plan process which was currently being developed.  This requirement was met when a new dwelling provides reasonable provision for most people to access the dwelling and includes features that made it suitable for a range of potential occupants, including older people, individuals with reduced mobility and some wheelchair users.  This was required to go through a viability test, as all our policy recommendations, were for the Local Plan.


M4(3): Category 3 – Wheelchair user dwellings


M4(3) was the standard which West Suffolk was recommending for 25% of its affordable housing on developments and 10% on market sales on developments through the Local Plan process which the Council was currently working through.  This was required to go through a viability test as all the Council’s policy recommendations were for the Local Plan.  This requirement was achieved when a new dwelling had practical provisions for a wheelchair user to live in the dwelling and could use any outdoor space, parking and communal facilities.


The Council met regularly with registered providers and developers that cover West Suffolk, to promote the benefits of housing that meets the need of our communities.  The size and standards of housing was a regular agenda item to ensure West Suffolk promotes clear expectations for what was developed.


The planning team was currently reviewing all the policy recommendations mentioned above for the West Suffolk Local Plan.  This would ensure homes would meet this standard for developments in future across West Suffolk.


What is specifically being built for the ageing population?


The Council did not keep specific figures on how many homes had been built or were proposed for an ageing population.


The policy requirements to meet the needs of an ageing population was met through the building regulations M4(2) and M4(3).  These refer to accessible and adaptable dwellings, as well as wheelchair accessible homes.  This ensures that homes could be adapted to meet the needs of the occupants without the need for them to move to a different property/home.


The housing needs assessment for West Suffolk was published in October 2021 and highlighted an increased need for housing to meet the needs of an ageing population.  The report (OAS/WS/22/004) highlighted that there was a need to increase the supply of M4(2) accessible and adaptable dwellings and M4(3) wheelchair user dwellings.  In seeking M4(2) complaint homes, the Council was also mindful that such homes could be considered as “homes for life” and would be suitable for any occupant, regardless of whether they had a health problem or disability at the time of initial occupation.


The purpose of including this information was to illustrate how nationally set building regulations ensure homes were built to meet the needs of our ageing generation through policy in West Suffolk.


The Council had recommendations for the Local Plan M4(2) – proposal of 100% for all housing.  M4(3) 25% affordable housing and 10% market housing.


The Cabinet Member for Planning explained that since 2017 there were 34 bungalows in West Suffolk:


-      14 x 1 bed

-      4 x 2 bed

-      16 x 3 bed


In Haverhill, there were two schemes for over “55” housing:

-      Scheme one - 27 units

-      Scheme two – 17 units 


The Council was also securing more ground floor flats/apartments in urban areas to meet the needs of an ageing population.  The Council was also negotiating with developers and registered providers about meeting Nationally Described Space standards.  This highlighted the minimum space standards expected for the size of homes which were built within a mix of developments in West Suffolk.


The Committee considered the report in detail and asked a number of questions to which responses were provided.


In response to a question raised as to whether the number of homes being built to the new standards would be included in the new Local Plan, to which officers explained that having a policy in place would help the Council in the future to monitor numbers, but they would still need to be viability tested.  The new regulations and standards moving forward would help with future proofing needs.  The idea of a standard was not just a home for life, but to give people an opportunity to move to a house with a particular standard and policy.


In response to a question raised as to why solar panels and other sustainable materials were not being put on new buildings, the Cabinet Member for Planning advised that environmental issues/environmental policies were being picked up and built into the new Local Plan.  However, the Council was bound by developers due to the viability test.


In response to a question raised regarding the lack of bungalows being built, the Cabinet Member for Planning explained that developers do not like building bungalows, but the Council was looking at this as part of the development mix in the new Local Plan.


There being no decision required, the Committee noted the report.

Supporting documents: