Is there a market for accessible homes?

Front cover of Habinteg report showing coins and Monopoly housesA UK blog site has an article that discusses the market appeal of Lifetime Homes in the UK context. Dominic Aitken cites some interesting research and reports by the London School of Economics, Ipsos MORI, and Habinteg Housing and Papworth Trust. UK homes are traditionally two storey with the bathroom and toilet upstairs. They are generally smaller than Australian homes too, which makes it more difficult in terms of circulation spaces. It was thought that Part M of the building code would create greater accessibility in homes, but it hasn’t helped much at all. The best part is that it requires a downstairs toilet, which is handy for everyone. Aitken explains his own research project on this topic looking at homebuyers and estate agents. The blog site has attracted several good comments and are worth reading too. By the way, it seems stair lifts are not that popular with purchasers. 

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Housing: what theory and what research?

facade of an apartment building showing long balconiesThree academic articles come together for an intellectual tussle on housing theory and policy. David Clapham claims that there is a divide between researchers who focus on policy and those who focus on theory, and he asks where theory for housing research should come from and what it would look like. Hannu Ruonavaara, poses four positions about housing related theory: Is it possible to have one theory for all housing related research?; is it desirable to have one?; should we scrutinise housing as a special activity and experience?; and can we construct a theory about the relationships between the housing system and features of society?  Manuel Aalbers, who in his article, asks What kind of theory for what kind of housing research? responds to both academics. He discusses the pros and cons of their arguments. The point about housing research being largely for the audience of other housing researchers is well made. He believes it is more important to demonstrate the relevance of housing research to other social scientists. More importantly it needs to influence policy. Not light reading, but fascinating if you are a housing researcher or interested in housing policy. 

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Do it yourself housing design

A webpage showing the navigation toolMy Home Space is an interactive online tool that takes you through the design details of all parts of the home including spatial requirements. The website has a video explaining how to use the guide. The tool is enhanced by references to assistive technology. The information in the tool takes the form of “things to consider” and is provided in the context of the NDIS. However, some of the design tips are useful for most homes. There is a companion paper, Government perspectives on housing, technology and support design within Australia’s National Disability Strategy that explains the background and the methodology for developing this tool. This is the work of Libby Callaway and Kate Tregloan from Monash University who will be speaking at the upcoming Australian Universal Design Conference 4-5 September 2018. 

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Housing Challenges Past and Future

House half built showing timber frameworkFrom the US another article that supports universal design in housing. To give context to the current challenges, it covers the history of housing from the Great Depression through to the current day. It poses the same arguments for (non) cost of universal design, and the imperatives for it. An interesting point is that there are now more Millennials than Boomers in the US and they will be the future drivers of the housing market. The article concludes that with declining home ownership rates, “Two solutions on the supply side are Universal Design and Accessory Dwelling Units, neither of which are currently supported by public policies. To increase wealth building and economic mobility in the short, middle, and distant future, local, regional, state, and national policy makers may want to focus on these and other innovative strategies.” Graphs help with explanations of statistics.

The article is on page 24 of the Realtor University publication, The Journal of The Center for Real Estate Studies. The article is titled, Past, Current and Future Housing Challenges in the United States. There are four other articles that might be of interest, rent growth, millennial home ownership, manufactured homes, and real estate investment. The text is not easy to read and is in two column format. 

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Co-designing bathrooms with older people

Public toilet in Kawakawa New Zealand. It has large mosaic tiles all at different angles. The toilet seat is timberHow do you know what older people want in their bathroom design? Simple. Ask them. And have lots of Post It Notes handy. That’s the basis of co-design. Having a more flexible and safer bathroom at home is one of the keys to ageing in place. Knowing “what’s best” is not necessarily in the hands of design experts or health professionals. The Livable Bathrooms for Older People Project investigated and evaluated all aspects of bathroom design, fixtures and fittings. The report spells out in great detail how the project was conducted, including the role of participants in the process, and the outcomes of the research. There are many explanatory pictures demonstrating the process.The report is available on ResearchGate or can be purchased from Google Books.

The Co-Design research was carried out by Associate Professor Oya Demirbilek, the Co-Design Sessions Lead Investigator with assistance from PhD Students Alicia Mintzes, Steve Davey and Peter Sweatman. University of New South Wales. 2015.

Note: The picture is of the renowned public toilet in Kawakawa New Zealand. It would be very confusing for someone with perception issues.  Editor’s photo.

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To market, to market with SDA housing

Five level apartment block with shops at street level. Specialist Disability Accommodation housing (SDA) is seen as a niche housing product that governments should pay for. But a new study shows the demand is so great private developers need to get on board. With $700m a year earmarked for SDA it means a move from grants-based funding to a market-based system. However, there are many others who need basic accessible housing who do not quality for SDA, and this is still a gap in the market. But will the market think that the issues have been solved with SDA and do nothing about mainstream housing?  This article was found in The Conversation. SDA is a must if Australia is going to meet its commitments under the National Disability Strategy

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Housing and older people: four strategies

A brick house showing small pane windows and window boxes with a green hedge in frontIn his conference paper, The Future of Housing for the Elderly: Four Strategies that Can Make a Difference, Jon Pynoos continues to advocate for accessible housing and home modifications. His arguments are not new – they just need to be kept up, given there has been no change in Australia or the USA since this campaign began some 20 years or so ago. It is not a long article, but gives an overview of some of the issues preventing good renovation design and design of new homes. He then discusses some of the particular issues in the USA including older people ageing in ageing buildings. As for new homes, he cites building standards as being the biggest barrier to creating homes that will suit people throughout their lifespan, and that won’t need modifications later on. Professor Pynoos adds more evidence on the failure of voluntary codes in this regard. His conclusions join the dots between all the elements that would make for successful lifelong homes. Jon Pynoos is well known in housing and home modification circles. Over his long career he has campaigned for accessible home designs and universal design through his many articles and conference presentations. 

The article was published by The Gerontological Society of America,  Public Policy & Aging Report, 2018, Vol. 00, No. 00, 1–4

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Universal Design in Housing

Front cover of book showing lots of different sized and coloured cubes stacked. The title banner is in dark yellow For anyone not familiar with the movement for universal design in housing, Introduction to Housing has a chapter that gives a really good overview of how to incorporate UD into the design. It covers each of the design features and explains that they can be factored into moderately sized homes. The chapter addresses each of the classic principles of universal design and how they apply to housing design. A case study illustrates the features. As with many Google Books, many of the pages are freely available, but for the full chapter you will need to contact the authors, Hartje, Ewen and Tremblay or purchase the book.

Introduction to Housing, 2nd edition, is edited by Katrin B. Anacker, Andrew T. Carswell, Sarah D. Kirby, Kenneth R. Tremblay. 

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Let’s get physical at home

Lounge room with two white couches with blue cushions. A rocking chair with red cushions is also in the pictureIn the rush to get people walking and being “active travellers” we’ve forgotten a place that most of us walk everyday – our home. This becomes even more important for people who have difficulty getting out and about in the outdoor built environment. So what features should we be looking at in indoor environments to encourage physical activity?  Maureen C Ashe is interested in this question. Her book chapter, Indoor Environments and Promoting Physical Activity Among Older People, looks at the issues. You will need institutional access for a free read from SpringerLink.

Abstract: Our house, our homes, ourselves: who we are, and the places that we inhabit are indelibly interwoven. Data are fast accumulating on the significant role of the outdoor built environment and physical activity (and health). For populations such as older adults with (or without) mobility impairments, a poorly structured built environment can significantly restrict community engagement. Despite the fact that we spend most of our lives indoors, there is far less empirical evidence to discern features of the indoor environment that influence physical activity. There is a need to focus on buildings incorporating age-friendly designs to support “ageing in place,” to build homes (and communities) that nurture social interaction, and identify destinations and routines that encourage adoption of activity into daily life habits.

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Downsizing: It’s not about the money

A large two storey weatherboard home with a big garage and drivewayPolicy makers think that downsizing is largely about finances and homes being too large to suit ageing in place. But the evidence is something else. Research findings put to bed some of the myths younger policy makers have about older people and their ideas on housing.The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) has released an overview of research carried out on downsizing and older people; “Government policies to encourage downsizing are focussed on stamp duty reductions for older households however research shows there are a wider range of barriers to downsizing (real and perceived) for older householders other than financial reasons”. It would be good if homes were universally designed with the lifespan in mind – that’s what older people want – to stay put for as long as possible. Time for policy makers to re-think. Young people think of house and equity. Older people think of home and security. The title of the article is What are the contributors and barriers to downsizing?   

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