All new homes will need to include wider doorways, ground level bathrooms and entry level access to comply with new voluntary building guidelines to improve living standards for young families, the aged and people with disabilities.
They will also be designed to accommodate baby prams and wheelchairs, have reinforced bathroom walls for railings and make for easier movement inside, in a cradle-to-the- grave policy to make all homes liveable for people of all generations.
Leaders of the housing industry, disability sector and community have agreed to an aspirational target that all new homes will be built to disability-friendly Liveable Housing Design standards by 2020.
The announcement is the outcome of the National Dialogue on Universal Design, convened by Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities Bill Shorten last year, to improve the availability of liveable housing and get industry and disability groups working together to promote it.
The voluntary Liveable Housing Design guidelines consist of three levels: Silver, Gold and Platinum, and outline the key features required to meet each standard.
Mr Shorten said Liveable Design is aimed to build houses that could be adapted to meet the changing needs of residents over their lifetime.
He said that it would become increasingly important as Australia’s population ages and disability became more common.
“These are houses which are easier to live in, can be adapted more cheaply, and will be easier to sell,” Mr Shorten said.
“Liveable Housing Design is housing which meet the needs of all people, including people with disability and senior Australians,” Mr Shorten said.
“Families with young children, anyone who suffers a temporary injury, or has a friend with disability to stay the night, will also benefit from Liveable Design.
“A few simple design features, such as a reinforced bathroom walls, a flat entry to the house and wide corridors and doorways can make a home suitable for an older person or a person with a disability at minimal cost.
The industry has also agreed to a set of voluntary guidelines for housing, which will be used to inform consumers and the industry about universal design, and increase its application.
The Gillard Government will invest $1M over four years to drive an innovative partnership with leaders of the construction and property sectors to promote Liveable Housing.
Although the standards are voluntary, key industry groups including the Property Council, Master Builders Australia and the Housing Industry Association have supported them and committed to the 2020 target.
They will also provide useful information for consumers seeking to introduce universal design features into a new home which could also be readily applied within an existing home.
Dialogue members have agreed to develop a national awareness campaign and brand for Universal Housing Design.
Property Council CEO, Peter Verwer, said that developing the guidelines had been a great example of collaboration between the industry and the disability sector.
“Liveable Housing has great potential for the future. It has low costs and huge returns both for homeowners and the broader community.”
Australian Bureau of Statistics research shows that, between 1981 and 2003, the number of people with a disability more than doubled from 1.9 million to 3.9 million.
The ABS estimates that the number of Australians with disabilities will continue to increase through the first half of this century, due to the ageing of Australia’s population.
The requirements of the Silver standard are as follows:
1. A safe and continuous path of travel from the street entrance and/or parking area to a dwelling entrance that is level.
2. At least one level entrance into the dwelling.
3. Internal doors and corridors that facilitate comfortable and unimpeded movement between spaces.
4. A toilet on the ground (or entry) level that provides easy access.
5. A bathroom that contains a hobless (step-free) shower recess.
6. Reinforced walls around the toilet, shower and bath to support the safe installation of grabrails at a later date.
The members of the National Dialogue are: