Universal Design in Housing: Are we there yet?

aerial view of a big city with skyscrapersThe short answer to this is no. We are nowhere near the promises made in the strategic plan that Livable Housing Australia was set up to deliver in 2010. This is because policy makers believed that the house-building industry could work together for change without regulations and standards. As the strategic plan was endorsed by COAG (Council of Australian Governments), it was assumed it would happen. Six years on and we have the NDIS, an ageing population and still no accessible housing aside from that which some local governments might demand from developers using existing planning laws.

The Australian Network for Universal Housing Design (ANUHD) has kept up their lobbying activities. Suggestions to turn the Livable Housing Design Guidelines into an Australian Standard to help local government apply the design features have been refused. Appeals to the Australian Building Codes Board to include basic access features in all new housing have met with the same response.

And now we have the Specialist Disability Accommodation program being rolled out to the tune of $700m a year. Is the house-building industry pricking up their ears now perhaps? Will the relevant State ministers with responsibility for the building code in their state start to realise something has to change? ANUHD is following the case closely and should know more after the relevant state ministers meet this week. It seems several State ministers are in favour of regulation for accessible housing “in principle”, but we shall see if this translates into anything more concrete.

Livable Housing Australia’s strategic plan sets out the path to achieve 100% of new homes to the Livable Housing Guidelines by 2020. It is worth being reminded that this was not supposed to be just a nice idea – it was supposed to happen for two reasons. To meet our commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability, and to prepare for population ageing. Margaret Ward tells the story from ANUHD’s perspective