Accessible Housing: The Funding Gap

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Accessible Housing: The Funding Gap

The cost of accessibility depends on when it's implemented. Who pays for any adaptation works to make a property suitable for wheelchair users in the private rented sector?

Wheelchair Accessibility Funding Gap Options

Funding adaptation works and how to deal is part of nearly every conversation with our new landlords. Funding comes together with the practicalities of works when with each new landlord conversation, and they're important topics to address early, because they enable progression from idea to reality.

When Landlords consider accessibility, it's usually with relation to a specific property that has just come available for them. I note that discussing accessibility in relation to a specific property can be a double edged sword: on the one hand it brings concepts to life; but on the other hand, as the first property rarely works, I think it can give landlords a subconscious belief that no property will work and that accessibility is too difficult.

It's common that the first property considered won't work, for any number of reasons: for example, the property is too small; or without a little forward planning, to do so would mean an unacceptable void period;  or the property is in good condition and it doesn't always make sense to rip things out and for a landlord to make changes at this point.

Property investment strategies can be slow burn. However, each conversation is time well spent. The idea to implement accessibility may lie dormant, but with the next purchase, or opportunity to refurbish, it can be planned and well implemented. Landlords who explore accessibility as an investment strategy show forward thinking and a willingness to learn. Generally, the more they understand about it, the more it makes sense as a strategy.

Let's look at common stages for implementing accessibility into an investment property and what each one might mean for a landlord, in relation to funding.

New Build - if you're buying a new build property, ask about the planning conditions and look for properties that are designed to M4(3) Wheelchair Adaptable or Accessible standards. The difference between adaptable and accessible is how they are fitted out. Adaptable is a standard fit out which should have a 2nd set of plans meaning that it can be adapted easily and cost effectively for wheelchair use. Accessible means it is fitted out for wheelchair occupancy. Seek advice before you purchase if you're buying adaptable for wheelchair user, because the switch from adaptable to accessible isn't always what it should be. If you're buying off plan, this can be a great way to go and cost effective.

Refurbishment - this is the most convenient and cheapest time to incorporate accessibility features. However, please seek advice before you start in order to ensure that the accessibility is actually wheelchair accessible. Often, we can source you a tenant who's looking for a long term tenancy, before you've even started the project, so that everything dovetails together and any tenant uncertainty is removed, facilitating a positive tenant relationship and easy revenue stream from the start. 

Adaptation works for a specific person via a Disabled Facilities Grant - there is grant money available for people with accessible housing needs. The grant is for the occupant and not the owner of the property, though the owner must consent. The owner can be as involved or hands-off as they like and concerns such as whether the works are put back to original at the end of a tenancy will be addressed. Given the huge demand and short supply, we always strive to ensure that adaptations are left in a property and that another tenant with accessibility needs is lined up during the notice period.

Tenant funded works - some tenants know what they need and are in a position to fund works themselves. If this is the case, this can all be agreed and documented, so that both tenant and landlord understand who is responsible for what, the standards and expected finishes and what happens at the end of the tenancy.

Landlord funded works - for some landlords it's easier and more effective to sort and pay for any works, which may be part of a package of works, rather than be beholden to any bureaucracy, delays or reliance on others.  Rationale behind this may be to do with an investment strategy or to do with values-based investing.

It's important to note that "accessible" does not mean clinical or ugly, in terms of finish. Much of accessibility is about designing in space and manoeuvrability, and where features are required, such as a grab rail or ceiling track hoist, there choice of designer products available has expanded significantly to fit in with the style and period of the property.

If you're a landlord and are thinking about making your properties accessible, we'd love to talk with you and address any questions you may have. Our tenant map shows where we our registered wheelchair users are looking to rent - each with known budgets, property requirements and anticipated tenancy durations.