The ODPM has commissioned research to evaluate the impact of the changes to Part M of the building regulations, which concerns the accessibility of all new homes and was introduced in 1999.
ODPM minister Lord Rooker, replying to cross-bencher Lord Best, said work was expected to begin before Christmas and to report in about two years' time.
Lord Rooker agreed, adding: 'It is true that some of the builders are ignoring it. The public end up subsidising the building industry by way of the disabled facilities grant, which last year was £175m. That is the overall effect. If we can install facilities when homes are built in the first place, we will not only save money but improve people's quality of life'.
The minister, replying to Liberal Democrat Baroness Maddock, insisted: 'I absolutely refute that building to a higher density means building to a lower quality. That includes the facilities for people with disabilities and Part M. It is an excuse made by builders and those who want to continue building at low densities, wasting the valuable asset of our land'.
Cross-bencher Baroness Greengross, former chief of Age Concern, asked how the government could encourage more flexible lifetime housing. In houses being constructed in The Netherlands only the outer shell was fixed and the inner walls were easy to move around so that as one went through life the house would adapt to suit one's needs rather than the other way round.
Lord Rooker said he had heard about the work in The Netherlands, The regulations would be reviewed seriously because there was a go od case for designing properties for lifetime use.
'That means flexibility. That still means we are dealing only with new buildings while there are 25 million existing dwellings in the country to deal with. We must not ignore the fact that we shall still have a large programme of adaptations', added Lord Rooker.
Hansard 15 Oct 2003: Column 934 - 936