The Provision of Visitable Housing in Australia: Down to the detail

House half built showing timber frameworkWhat do industry stakeholders think about incorporating the eight key features in the Livable Housing Design Guidelines? An article by Margaret Ward and Jill Franz explains their findings. By inspecting eleven new dwellings in the Brisbane area the researchers found that none of the dwellings were visitable:

“In summary, when providing the eight features for visitability, the interviewees identified two themes for non-compliance (“lack of thought” and “otherness”) and three themes for compliance (“fashion”, “requirement’ and “good practice”). Although all dwellings provided some features, no dwelling provided a coherent path of travel necessary to make a dwelling visitable. Some examples of this incoherence were: a step-free driveway which led to a step at the door; a wide front door which led to a narrow corridor; and a narrow internal doorway which did not allow entry of a wheel-chair to a spacious bathroom. The provision of these access features separately and severally did not provide visitability as an outcome in any of the dwellings.

The title of the article is, The Provision of Visitable Housing in Australia: Down to the Detail

Abstract  In response to the ratification of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD), Australian housing industry leaders, supported by the Australian Government, committed to transform their practices voluntarily through the adoption of a national guideline, called Livable Housing Design. They set a target in 2010 that all new housing would be visitable by 2020. Research in this area suggests that the anticipated voluntary transformation is unrealistic and that mandatory regulation will be necessary for any lasting transformation to occur. It also suggests that the assumptions underpinning the Livable Housing Design agreement are unfounded. This paper reports on a study that problematised these assumptions. The study used eleven newly-constructed dwellings in three housing contexts in Brisbane, Australia. It sought to understand the logics-of-practice in providing, and not providing, visitable housing. By examining the specific details that make a dwelling visitable, and interpreting the accounts of builders, designers and developers, the study identified three logics-of-practice which challenged the assumptions underpinning the Livable Housing Design agreement: focus on the point of sale; an aversion to change and deference to external regulators on matters of social inclusion. These were evident in all housing contexts indicating a dominant industry culture regardless of housing context or policy intention. The paper suggests that financial incentives for both the builder and the buyer, demonstration by industry leaders and, ultimately, national regulation is a possible pathway for the Livable Housing Design agreement to reach the 2020 goal. The paper concludes that the Australian Government has three options: to ignore its obligations under the CRPD; to revisit the Livable Housing Design agreement in the hope that it works; or to regulate the housing industry through the National Construction Code to ensure the 2020 target is reached.

In her Robert Jones Memorial Lecture, Margaret Ward challenges popular assumptions about how accessible housing will be achieved using the evidence from her PhD study on the private housing market. In the inaugural Robert Jones Memorial Oration in Brisbane in 2014, Margaret recounts the life of Robert Jones and his dream to make public spaces and places accessible to everyone. She also uses the experiences of her father and daughter to illustrate the importance of living at home until your last days. 

Download the Word version: Margaret Ward Robert Jones Memorial Lecture 2014