6 March 2012 New survey launched in Trailblazers Housing Investigation

Trailblazers have launched a new survey into accessible housing and are set to explore the services of the UK's housing providers after many members of the network reported difficulties when looking to rent or buy flats and houses.Wheelchair accessible housing

This new survey builds on the evidence revealed in our estate agents survey launched last year and will help us to campaign on this essential issue.

Over 40% of disabled young people aged 16-24 are living in accommodation that does not meet their needs . After college or university, many young people want to move away from home and begin a new chapter of their lives, and this is often no different for young disabled people. The search for accessible accommodation is a key component of being able to live independently .

The Office for Disability Issues defines independent living as being "about disabled people having the same level of choice, control and freedom in their daily lives as any other person." Yet the smallest problems can prevent some disabled people from finding accessible housing and achieving their aim of independent living.

The investigation was sparked following reports of Trailblazers waiting years to find wheelchair-accessible homes to rent or buy, despite local authorities funding adaptations to thousands of UK homes each year.

While the shortage of wheelchair accessible accommodation in the UK has been described as "significant" by organisations like Habinteg, there is evidence to suggest that inefficient allocation of both adapted local authority and private housing is leaving disabled home-seekers out in the cold. Habinteg's report Mind the Step also stated that between 2008-2009 less than a quarter of local authority and housing association "wheelchair standard" properties were allocated to wheelchair-users, meaning adapted homes may often 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 even advising home-sellers to downplay any adaptations - or even remove them before sale.

Hannah-Lou Blackall tells of how she decided to be involved with the project after struggling to find accessible rental accommodation after moving from Norfolk to Hull to take up a new job. Hannah-Lou was forced to live in a conference centre for a year before a suitable home could be found, which at a cost of £1000 a month, put her under severe financial pressure.

Hannah-Lou said:

It was very frustrating trying to track down a property near Hull that would actually work for me. I was signed up to every single estate 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. I need a special kind of bathroom in a property so that I can use the shower, which they just didn't get it 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.

We hope this investigation well tell us more about how we can support them to do that.

Bobby Ancil, Trailblazers Project Manager said:

The purpose of our investigation is to hear directly from young disabled people on where and how they are struggling to find their own homes, and what could be done to support them. Young disabled people heading to university, moving out of home with friends, or trying to settle down with a partner are coming up against a brick wall when it comes to finding a home. Yet 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.

Complete our housing survey and get involved in the investigation.

Hear Trailblazer Hannah-Lou on BBC Radio 4's You and Yours.


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