This case study exemplify one or more of the Principles of Excellence that was identified during the research and engagement work of the Commission on the Role of housing in the future of care and support.
Model of housing or service: supported living
Introduction and overview
Habinteg Housing Association (HHA) was founded in 1970 by leading figures from the Spastics Society (now known as Scope) as a social housing provider of high-quality accessible homes for disabled people. Its objective has been to develop these accessible homes as part of mainstream housing schemes aiming to create integrated communities where disabled and non-disabled people, of all ages, can live together as neighbours. Hence the name, which comes from the Latin phrase habitus integrans, or ‘integrated housing’. Today, HHA owns and manage more than 3,300 homes and operates in 86 local authorities across England and Wales.
HHA’s vision is for communities to include disabled people, families and older people, offering places to live that meet their needs and provide the highest levels of independence, choice and control over their daily lives. Moreover, its mission is to champion inclusion – it does this by campaigning for homes that are designed to meet the needs of disabled as well as non-disabled people and challenging negative attitudes about disabled people. What results is an integrated multigenerational environment where disabled people can find accessible homes and where older people can access lifelong housing thus facilitating ageing in place. HHA’s work is driven by the social model of disability – that people are disabled by society and its attitudes, not by physical impairments.
HHA is also committed to influencing and informing the housing landscape and do this by working with central and regional government and local authorities to improve policy and practice. For example, in 2016, it launched the now award winning #ForAccessibleHomes campaign. The campaign put a human face on the need for more accessible homes, bringing to the fore people’s personal stories of having a home that suits their need.
HHA is also recognised for its knowledge and expertise built over decades and its work has earned it respect and recognition from professional organisations and tenants alike. In 2019, three members of HHA’s Insight group, all wheelchair users, made the Disability Power 100 list, who have played an important part in influencing the accessible homes agenda on a national scale and their efforts have helped raise greater awareness of the accessible housing crisis.
Innovation and excellence
HHA is committed to building accessible homes of exemplar quality and works closely with its training and consultancy team, the Centre for Accessible Environments (CAE) which is the UK’s leading authority on inclusive design in the built environment, to meet all user needs, including disabled and older people. The CAE became a wholly owned HHA subsidiary in 2012 which cemented a long-working relationship.
The CAE pioneered the provision of access guidance for building designers based on collaborative research with disabled people. It aims to help secure environments that can be accessed, used and enjoyed by everyone – including disabled and older people – through its understanding of a wide range of user needs, such as intellectual, social, cultural, physical and sensory.
More than a quarter of HHA homes are designed for wheelchair users, with the others built to be accessible and adaptable. Moreover, all houses built since 1994 meet the Lifetime Homes Standard. HHA developed the concept of Lifetime Homes with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 1990. It sets out 16 design criteria that ensure a new home is accessible, flexible to live in and easily adaptable. The Lifetime Homes design criteria are intended to provide accessible and adaptable accommodation for everyone, and over time, should allow older people to remain in their houses for longer and offer disabled people greater choice for independent living.
This standard means that Lifetime Homes can adapt to the changing needs of a household over time at minimal cost. The HHA approach is therefore also good value for money as building Lifetime Homes cuts the cost of future adaptations if a tenant’s needs should change. By promoting independence, the design of the homes helps disabled and older people stay out of unwanted and more costly institutionalised settings. Additionally, by building developments that integrate housing designed with both disabled people and non-disabled people in mind, HHA helps minimise social exclusion, tackles the negative stereotypes that disabled people face and combats the isolation and segregation many experience. An example of such a housing scheme is Goodrich Court scheme in Hounslow which was opened in 2016. It provides 16 homes, of which 12 are built to the Lifetime Homes Standard, designed to enable adaptations to be made at minimal cost – supporting the changing needs of individuals and families at different stages of their lives. The other four homes are built to wheelchair standards and are designed to meet the requirements of wheelchair users, with features such as adjustable kitchen counters and wet rooms. More recently, it opened the Raynville Crescent scheme in Leeds which provides 11 houses built to the Lifetime Homes Standard and three wheelchair-standard bungalows.
HHA is also committed to co-production and shared decision-making with its tenants, who play a vital role in improving the quality and responsiveness of its services. Tenants are encouraged to be involved in various ways, from expressing their views on the ‘Your Voice’ panel – a consultation group, acting as tenant representatives or sitting on the newly established tenant panel group that reviews performance, delivery and customer satisfaction.
Tenants are also represented on the scrutiny panel and on the insight group which gives them the opportunity to set standards and influence decisions that have an impact locally, nationally and across the organisation.
Improving experiences and transforming lives
For many people, having an accessible home that suits their needs can be transformative and there are a number of examples and stories of tenants of HHA homes reporting how their lives have improved and changed. Many of these tenants were previously living in inappropriate settings that did not meet their existing or changing needs. The settings were often cramped and limited mobility. For many this meant they were often unable to perform everyday tasks such as cooking and bathing or partaking in hobbies such as gardening. Restricted mobility also means that they many didn’t leave the house very often, and were at times confined to just one room. They had little independence, often unable to take up employment and many reported experiencing depression and isolation.
The tenant stories below provide an indication of the massive difference that HHA has made in their lives.
Ian Wheeton, Pensioner, Raynville Crescent Leeds
I moved to a wheelchair-accessible bungalow in Raynville Crescent from a medium-sized housing estate in Leeds. I was on Leeds City Council’s housing list for five months, my application was a priority due to ill health. I’m a pensioner with multiple sclerosis and I live on my own. The estate was quite outdated and it was difficult to get out of my front door.
Habinteg and Leeds City Council helped me move from an inaccessible dwelling to a wheelchair-accessible home. As one of the first tenants to move into Raynville Crescent, I can now move freely around my home, cook, do the washing up and relax in the back garden.
It’s great to go out when I want to now. My motability scooter gets me to the shops and I can spend more time with my son. I couldn’t really get out to see him before. The wheelchair-accessible bungalow gives me the ability to live more independently. Entrances and exits are wider, and kitchen counters are adjustable. Sinks, toilets and wet rooms are easy to get to. Living in a single-level home also means I can say goodbye to tricky stairs and broken lifts.
Now, whenever I think of my ideal home, I think, ‘This is it. I’m where I want to be’.
If I ever want my own space, or feel poorly, I can do what I enjoy most and go into my garden and look after the vegetables, which really relaxes me and reduces my anxiety. I’m sure my wife also appreciates our new home because it’s allowed us to spend more time together.
Conclusion and key learning
The Commission recognises the central role co-production and shared decision-making has played and continues to play in the development of HHA’s homes. HHA’s key strength lies in its commitment to taking an evidence-based approach towards the design of accessible housing. By working with the CAE, the technical experts on accessible design, it can build houses and communities that are fit for purpose, inclusionary and meet the needs of everyone, including families at different stages of their lives, disabled people and older people. What follows is an improvement in outcomes such as independence, isolation and mental health. The success of this approach is well documented in the several honest and heart-warming tenant stories published on its website and in its annual reports.
Moreover, HHA’s commitment to quality and improvement has been demonstrated by its highly effective and valued work on housing standards, campaigning for change, and influencing policy and practice. Finally, the housing provider has also achieved success because of its collaborative and partnership approach, working closely not only with tenants and disabled people more widely, but also with a range of charities, research bodies, local authorities and other housing providers.