Developing properties for people with learning disabilities – 8 things property investors need to know
Creating homes for people with learning disabilities can be a really rewarding way to invest in property and give back to your community. We have a lot of members asking us what care providers and housing associations are looking for so we thought we would help you understand some of the issues.
Learning disability is a term used to describe a wide range of conditions and therefore people with learning disabilities have a wide range of support and accommodation needs. It’s important to remember that people with learning disabilities may also have other conditions so needs can vary but here are the main considerations.
1. Property Standards
The property will need to be safe and meet all the usual private rental standards ie fire standards, EPC, gas safety and electrical safety certificates. All supported living providers are looking for high quality, safe properties to lease.
2. Property design
People with learning disabilities will often require support throughout their whole life so your property may well be a home for life. When designing property for people with learning disabilities bear in mind that most providers are looking for at least minimum space standards. Careful attention to layout design is important and you may need to plan good storage such as built-in cupboards.
Because of the variety of support needs, there is a range of adaptations that me be required; some people will not require any adaptation from what would be required in a good quality standard private rental property while others may require very specialised adapted accommodation. Some people with learning disabilities will have physical disabilities too so may require accessible accommodation while others may require a specification to maintain safety.
4. Property Type
Property of all types are required, one and two bed flats in a block, bungalows, small houses, shared houses, and blocks of one bed flats. In general we have seen a move away from larger shared houses towards blocks of one bed flats that allow tenants independence and privacy. Local authorities and supported living providers are often looking for blocks of one bed flats, typically 8-12 in a block with one flat being used as a staff base, this means each tenant has their own flat and their own front door while still being able to access on-site support when needed.
5. Staff Facilities
If you are developing property for people with more complex needs you may need to consider facilities for on-site carers and support staff. Sometimes people with complex needs may have up to 4 members of staff supporting them at a time and so the property may need to be spacious and the staff need their own space to sleep, rest and their own kitchen, bathroom and toilet facilities.
Noise can be an issue and we are often asked for detached properties, this can be because the tenants are disturbed by other people’s noise or because they may disturb neighbours. Sound proofing can be applied to party walls of attached properties.
Location is very important, often people will want to live near to family or friends. As for all of us when choosing where we live we all have different things that matter to us, maybe living near a park is important for some people, for others being able to walk to the shops or a café to meet friends, or being able to easily get on a bus to get to college or work.
8. Working with providers
Don’t be scared of talking to the providers and asking questions about the needs of your future tenants. Often by making a few changes you can create a home that meets the needs of the people with learning disabilities. You will not be expected to be an expert on adaptations there are clinical specialists who can advise on this, if needed. You play an important role as the property owner and developer and your knowledge of property is often highly valued by supported living providers.
As you can see when developing property for people with learning disabilities it is not a simple ‘one size fits all’. By being open to making some changes to your property you will be rewarded with a long lease with secure rental income, and you will have made a real difference to the life of someone who may find it harder to find a home.
Remember you are creating a home and if you get the property right you may well have a tenant for life.
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