Increased regulatory and financial constraints on local authorities, such as social rent cuts of 1% each year from 2016-2020, and welfare reforms mean that housing associations need to find ways of stretching their budgets to meet the need to build new affordable housing.

Finding opportunities to make savings on construction, refurbishment, repair and maintenance of current housing stock is key for housing associations in delivering some of the 300,000 new homes per year the government has said it will deliver.

Prevention better than the cure

Taking a more preventative planned approach to maintenance as opposed to the much more costly one of waiting for a problem to arise before fixing it is therefore the way to go. As part of such an approach, social housing providers could, at the same time, consider making earlier adaptations to meet the housing needs of an ageing population.

By 2030 there will be 50% more over-65s – and more than double the number of over-85s – alive in England than in 20101. And because 80% of the homes we will be living in by 2050 are already built2, efforts to extend the lifetime value of refurbishments by making them sufficiently flexible and practical to appeal to and meet the needs of all age groups should be front of mind for social housing providers.

Homes that anyone could live in

It makes a lot of sense for housing associations to find ways of futureproofing the investment they are making today in their refurbishment and building programmes. One way this can be achieved is by choosing contemporary interior products which just happen to be suitable for inclusive living.  Easy access showers, essential for many with limited mobility wouldn’t look out of place in any home. Similarly, installation of slip-resistant waterproof flooring, which provides extra traction and stability, and easy-clean surfaces illustrate how unobtrusive adaptations can be introduced even before they are needed on the grounds of age-related mobility or frailty.

From a whole host of perspectives, making small adaptations at the same time as repairs and maintenance or locking them into building specifications, has real benefits, not least being the improvement of the quality of life of residents over their lifetimes.

We can benefit economically as well from introducing adaptations at an early stage. Analysis from the Building Research Establishment shows that, making minor practical home adaptations along with other home improvements can lead to annual savings for the NHS and social care services of at least £500m through a 26% reduction in falls. These currently account for over four million hospital bed days each year in England alone.

Benefits for housing providers

Whilst some of the adaptations considered will benefit residents through the various stages of their lives, they can also be of immediate and long-term value to housing providers. Many practical adaptations are very easy, quick and economic to install.  Waterproof wall panels and flooring in bathrooms and wet rooms, for instance, provide durable watertight spaces that reduce the risk of water ingress from one unit damaging properties in the floors below. And because these sorts of products are extremely robust, requiring very little maintenance, ongoing repair and maintenance bills can be considerably reduced.

According to the Centre for Better Ageing3, 96% of us will continue to live in mainstream housing in later life. We therefore need to be thinking of the ways in which we maintain, adapt and create homes to make them suitable for inclusive living – homes that are just as appealing to say, an able-bodied person and his family, as they would be to an older person with declining mobility.


  1. IPPR Report – Futureproof Britain in the 2020s
  2. Centre for Better Ageing
  3. Centre for Better Ageing

About Multipanel

When it comes to manufacturing products to achieve completely watertight low maintenance bathrooms and kitchens, Multipanel are the industry experts.

“With Multipanel, says Simon Bonney adaptation supervisor at Plymouth Community Housing, “our residents are now able to maintain their living area more effectively due to the easy-to-clean wall panels — great for all our residents, but particularly so for those who have mobility issues which impacts their ability to clean tiles and grout. For them, the Multipanel product is perfect.”

With a history of innovation spanning over 135 years, Multipanel is at the forefront in manufacturing waterproof wall panels, vinyl and wet room flooring, and ceilings that enable housing professionals to create great looking, practical, waterproof interiors —ones that tenants will enjoy and appreciate.

The ease with which our products can be installed, together with negligible ongoing maintenance, makes our products a clear choice in the social housing sector.

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