De­mand is there for ac­ces­si­ble rented prop­erty

Wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble rental prop­er­ties are so rare it can take years to find one to let. Sharon Dale re­ports on a new cam­paign to high­light a shock­ing hous­ing short­age.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

WHEN Han­nah-lou Black­all landed a new job in Hull she was happy to re­lo­cate from her na­tive Nor­folk for the sake of her ca­reer.

But 12 months later, Han­nahLou, who has a mus­cle wast­ing dis­ease, still hadn’t found a home that was wheel­chair-friendly and was spend­ing the bulk of her salary on a B&B room cost­ing £1,000 a month.

“It was very frus­trat­ing try­ing to track down a prop­erty that would ac­tu­ally work for me. I was signed up to ev­ery sin­gle es­tate and let­ting agent, but none of them re­ally seemed to un­der­stand that an ac­ces­si­ble prop­erty doesn’t just mean wider door­ways and no steps up to the front,” she says.

“I need a spe­cial kind of bath­room in a prop­erty so that I can use the shower, which they just didn’t un­der­stand at all. The rental mar­ket doesn’t seem to have caught up with the fact that young dis­abled peo­ple now live and work in­de­pen­dently. Let­ting agents need to recog­nise that there is a big po­ten­tial mar­ket out there if they take the right ap­proach to cater­ing for dis­abled cus­tomers.”

Youth worker Han­nah-lou, 25, ex­pe­ri­enced the same prob­lem when she went to univer­sity. Although the halls of res­i­dence were suit­able, she had to stay there for three years rather than move out into pri­vate rented ac­com­mo­da­tion with her friends.

She now has a home of her own but only thanks to friends, who were ap­palled by her plight and bought a bun­ga­low that they could adapt and rent to her.

The Mus­cu­lar Dys­tro­phy Cam­paign say that Han­nah’s prob­lem is far from iso­lated and af­fects hundreds of dis­abled peo­ple who are at fi­nan­cial break­ing point af­ter re­lo­cat­ing for work.

“They are be­ing forced to stay in ho­tels or B&B ac­com­mo­da­tion un­til wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble rental ac­com­mo­da­tion can be found,” says Bobby An­cil, project man­ager of the Mus­cu­lar Dys­tro­phy Cam­paign’s Trail­blaz­ers, a net­work of 16 to 30-year-olds who cam­paign on so­cial is­sues af­fect­ing young dis­abled peo­ple.

The Trail­blaz­ers have now launched a na­tion­wide in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the is­sue and say there is ev­i­dence to sug­gest in­ap­pro­pri­ate al­lo­ca­tion of both adapted lo­cal au­thor­ity and pri­vate hous­ing. Be­tween 20082009 less than a quar­ter of lo­cal au­thor­ity and hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tion “wheel­chair stan­dard” prop­er­ties were al­lo­cated to wheel­chair users, mean­ing adapted homes may be in­hab­ited by those with­out a need for them.

Trail­blaz­ers also be­lieve that es­tate and let­tings agents are fail­ing to ad­ver­tise prop­er­ties’ ac­ces­si­ble fea­tures and are ad­vis­ing home own­ers to down­play any adap­ta­tions or re­move them be­fore sale or let.

Bobby An­cil says: “Each year, thou­sands of prop­er­ties are adapted with lo­cal au­thor­ity funds, so we know the stock is out there. We need to get to the bot­tom of how es­tate and let­tings agents and hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tions are mar­ket­ing wheel­chair-ac­ces­si­ble prop­erty and whether it is reach­ing the peo­ple who need it most.”

Han­nah says she would like to see let­tings agents and land­lords ac­tively pro­mot­ing ac­ces­si­ble prop­er­ties and wants prop­erty por­tals to high­light them too.

“There is a dis­abled reg­is­ter of homes online but there are only a hand­ful of prop­er­ties in the whole of York­shire on there. What we need is for that to be over­hauled and for land­lords to see adapted prop­er­ties as a sell­ing point.

“There is a mas­sive mar­ket for them. What hap­pens now is that money is spent on adap­ta­tions for a wheel­chair user but when that per­son leaves, the land­lords worry they could put able-bod­ied tenants off and take them out.

“When I was look­ing I asked if I could change the bath­room to suit my needs and land­lords weren’t keen be­cause they didn’t want to be stuck with it at the end of my ten­ancy.”

Chris Town, vice chair­man of the Res­i­den­tial Land­lords As­so­ci­a­tion, whose mem­bers are pri­vate land­lords, says po­lit­i­cal force and strate­gic think­ing is needed to solve the prob­lem.

“At the mo­ment, leg­is­la­tion says that if a ten­ant be­comes dis­abled while rent­ing a prop­erty, the land­lord must al­low adap­ta­tion to take place, though they don’t have to pay for it. That is usu­ally paid for by a lo­cal au­thor­ity grant.

“Land­lords wouldn’t go to the ex­pense of adapt­ing a house with­out fi­nan­cial help and I’m afraid that some see adap­ta­tions as in­tru­sive and off-putting,” says Chris.

He said mak­ing grants avail­able to adapt houses for the dis­abled would help.

ROOM CON­TEST: Vic­to­ria’s sleek kitchen, top; Danny out­side “Clut­ter Cot­tage”; Vic­to­ria, Joe and Hi­lary; Joe’s con­tem­po­rary din­ing room, above.

PO­TEN­TIAL MAR­KET: Han­nah-lou is cam­paign­ing for more rental prop­er­ties for wheel­chair users, to help them live and work in­de­pen­dently.

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