New accessibility standards to make homes fit for all

Australian Greens

The ACT Government wants to ensure every new residential is built to meet accessibility standards, not just in the ACT but across Australia.

At the upcoming meeting of all the nation’s Building Ministers, ACT Minister for Sustainable Building and Construction Rebecca Vassarotti will call for mandatory accessibility standards in the National Construction Code, so that all future homes, townhouses and apartments meet a threshold level of universal design.

“Imagine a world where every home is accessible or more easily adaptable for most people regardless of age, disability, background or other factors. That’s what universal design is about and it’s how we plan to build a better normal in Canberra homes,” Minister Vassarotti said.

“The standards will require simple features such as doors wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and step free access, a bathroom on the ground floor and structural reinforcements to allow for the installation of supports like grip rails if they are needed in the future.

“In the Parliamentary and Governing Agreement, we committed to all new homes should be built to universal standards, so if the changes to the National Construction Code are not agreed to by all Building Ministers, I will commence work to introduce standards for the ACT.

“Housing is a fundamental human right and accessible, affordable and sustainable housing is what our community needs to thrive.

“Universal design has been standard in other countries like the United Kingdom, which first introduced basic accessibility requirements to its residential building regulations in 1999. It is about time Australia’s National Construction Code followed suit to provide this accessibility more broadly.

“Australia’s voluntary Livable Housing Design Guidelines have failed to provide adequate levels of accessible housing; it is estimated that only 5-10% of new homes in Australia are being built to accessibility standards.

“Indeed, 73.6% of respondents in a 2020 report by the University of Melbourne said they were living in housing that does not, or only partially, meets their needs.

“The building industry needs to be supported to meet the new standards with reasonable timeframes for implementation, but we do need industry to now fully commit to building homes that meet the needs of our community.

“These proposed changes will add about 1% to the average construction cost of new homes but would save thousands of dollars in expensive retrofitting to homes in the future. Above all, they will mean that people are not forced out of their homes because they cannot be adapted to their needs.

“I am looking forward to working with my Building Minister colleagues around the country to ensure we secure this vital step toward ensuring every Australian has a suitable home. I am proud to be part of a government taking a leading position on this nationally.”

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