Livable Housing Design: Not our problem

Easy access inside and out of this home.Why do we keep building homes as if we are never going to grow old? The answer is complex. But the perceptions of developers, designers and builders gives us some insights. A Brisbane study collected data from site-visits, building documents and interviews with industry stakeholders. Four key themes emerged showing why nothing has changed: voluntary approach, otherness, immediacy, and inertia.

The strongest theme was the voluntary approach. It’s considered too risky to be a first mover – it could be a disadvantage. There is a view that people needing inclusive housing are not part of the mainstream market – they are “others”. Group homes and retirement villages were seen as the answer. Inclusive design was assumed to be ugly and undesirable. Therefore it couldn’t be marketed.

In terms of immediacy, the focus is the new home buyer not the long term use of the dwelling. It was also assumed that a young family wouldn’t want it. Consequently there isn’t a market for it. Inertia, was expressed as the reluctance to “change the way we do things around here”. The culture of building by rote dominates the house building system.

There is more in this study about interventions that might assist, one being regulation. Keeping a competitive level playing field is paramount in the industry. Bottom line, inclusive housing is not perceived as mainstream and therefore someone else’s responsibility. Consequently the Livable Housing Design Guidelines are insufficient in themselves to bring about change. 

The title of the open access article is, Livable Housing Design: The voluntary provision of inclusive housing in Australia. While this was published in 2014 it still remains current because no change to regulation or practice has occurred. However, we wait to see what the Australian Building Codes Board recommends to the Building Ministers Forum on the matter of accessible housing. The picture is from the gallery of Lifetime Homes in Tasmania.