Building ministers have agreed to include a national minimum standard for new housing as part of the public comment draft of the National Construction Code 2022.
In a statement released by the Queensland Government, Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen and Minister for Public Works and Procurement, Mick de Brenni said the news was a big win for millions of Australians.
Mr de Brenni said a minimum accessibility standard would ensure safe, secure and liveable housing, especially for seniors, with significant growth expected in the number of Australians remaining in their homes as they age.
“Housing should be designed to accommodate all people, regardless of their age or disability,” the Minister said.
“From young families with children to those with a temporary injury or permanent disability as well as the elderly, these reforms will benefit everyone.
“Finding a suitable rental home or home to purchase can be incredibly challenging for the 3.8 million seniors and the 4.4 million Australians with a mobility-related disability.
“The relatively simple and cost-effective fit out of homes with accessibility features would also mean the elderly can stay in their homes longer, enabling full and continued participation in life, like work, volunteering and family interactions.
“Seniors deserve to remain active and engaged, with strong connections to family and community, and a safe and secure home can help them age with dignity.”
The minimum accessibility standard will now form part of the National Construction Code 2022 public comment draft, which is scheduled to be released on 10 May.
The national minimum accessibility standard would include simple but crucial features at the silver standard of the Livable Housing Design Guidelines, such as:
- At least one step-free entrance door
- Wider internal doors and corridors
- Toilet on ground level (or entry level)
“It will also include sensible exemptions for steep slopes, small lots and, of course, continuing to allow traditional styles like the iconic Queenslander to be a feature of our cities and towns,” the Minister said.
“The up-front inclusion of these features will cost as little as one per cent of the building cost, however many designs already have them included, compared to almost 20 times the cost to retrofit.
“The cost to retrofit, and the cost to society through inequity, demands on social housing and homelessness and family dislocation, is far, far greater.
“These changes will make a tremendous difference to the lives of people with mobility limitations, where a single step can be an insurmountable obstacle to social and economic participation.”
Mark Tucker-Evans, Chief Executive, Council on the Ageing (COTA) Queensland welcomed the decision.
“This will change the life of hundreds of thousands of Australians who are currently limited in their day to day activities simply because their housing doesn’t meet their needs.
“Australia’s lack of accessible housing has forced many older Australians into residential care, when the majority of older Australians would rather age at home”.
“This decision is a strong recognition that every Australian deserves a home which is safe, secure and meets their needs.”