Housing Associations and Home Adaptations report

Housing Associations and Home Adaptations: Finding Ways to Say Yes

Following the publication of the Independent Review of DFG in 2018 we wanted to take a deeper dive into the workings of adaptations for social housing tenants. We knew that the housing world had changed significantly from the previous guidance in 2008 and that too many tenants were facing delay and frustration.

Thanks to our partners Habinteg and Anchor Hanover and the continued support of Taylor Wimpey we commissioned this new guidance which examines the current situation and makes key recommendations for improving delivery.

Adaptations can transform the way people live

They help people stay in their own homes, give them back their dignity and confidence, make homes safe, reduce falls, overcome the fear of falling, improve life for carers and family members, reconnect people with the outside world, increase wellbeing and mental health, and help people retain or gain employment.

They also save money for landlords by creating stable tenancies, generate considerable cost saving for health and care services by keeping people independent in the community, and produce national economic benefits by helping more people to work.

Aims of this study:

  • To look in depth at how adaptations are funded and delivered in the sector – including minor adaptations and use of the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG).
  • To examine how funding arrangements might be improved and the delivery process made quicker and more effective.
  • When adaptations are not the right solution, to see how the moving process might be improved.
  • To encourage a longer term and more strategic view of home adaptations.

It follows on from an independent review of the DFG in England in 2018. The focus is on housing associations rather than the retained council stock as associations use DFG funding while the council stock uses the Housing Revenue Account. It covers England as the arrangements for the funding of adaptations are different in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

The research identifies:

  • Good practice, particularly in LSVTs that control their own adaptations budgets, those fully engaged with their disabled and older tenants, or where there are effective partnership arrangements.
  • Issues in funding and delivery including splits in legal responsibility, a confusing pattern of funding, a post code lottery in the type of services provided, complex customer journeys and frustration for staff in local authorities and associations.
  • Rather than saying ‘yes’ to adaptations, barriers are often placed in the way and adaptations may be refused, especially in general needs properties. They may also be removed unnecessarily when tenancies change.
  • Moving home is not easy if a home is unsuitable or not possible to adapt.
  • Not enough accessible homes are being built and adapted homes are not recycled effectively. Asset management databases are sometimes incomplete, there are few accessible housing registers, void times are too short, and there is not enough support to match people to properties or provide help with moving.
  • Home adaptations lack importance – although disabled tenants form a substantial part of housing association populations, most associations see adapting homes as a minor operational issue. It is not part of a strategic plan to make the stock work for everyone.
  • A lack of disabled people working in the sector – a National Housing Federation Survey in 2021 showed that disabled people are under-represented as staff members, not visible as leaders in the sector, and only 4.8% of board members identified as disabled.

This report provides recommendations for associations, local authorities, central government, and the Housing Regulator to sort out the confusion about funding and improve the speed and effectiveness of home adaptations delivery.

It provides practical solutions to put disabled and older tenants at the heart of decision making, an inclusive approach to services, and for home adaptations to be part of the new customer-focused inspection regime.

The report was researched and written by:

Sheila Mackintosh has been a housing consultant for the last ten years. Prior to this she was an academic at the University of Bristol. Alongside her consultancy she was a Research Fellow in the Centre for Public Health and Wellbeing at the University of the West of England and is now a Visiting Research Fellow. She was the co-author of the previous guide to housing associations and home adaptations and was a member of the team that carried out the DFG Review in 2018.

Rachel Frondigoun has worked within the ‘DFG world’ for over 25 years. She has worked in both ‘in-house’ and external Home Improvement Agencies and within Local Authority Housing Strategy departments as the DFG budget holder working with an external HIA provider. She went self-employed in 2018 and since then has worked with over a dozen local authorities and HIA providers.