Housing to 2040: Scotland’s strategy

Front cover Housing to 2040.Scotland has a grand vision for housing. It’s strategy encompasses all the vexed policy issues in one document. The central principle is that housing impacts all other aspects of life. Health, wellbeing, life chances and job prospects are all affected by our housing situation. With this in mind, Scotland’s ambitious strategy sets out a 20 year work program to 2040. 

The policy issues addressed are: homelessness, affordability, security of tenure, affordable warmth, independent living, the housing market, housing standards, and zero emissions. The section on independent living is where the specifics of accessible housing sit. One aim is to change the accessible housing standard to incorporate accessibility into all new homes. But not yet. However, it is a good example of how to draw all the vexed housing issues into one document.

Universal design elements still require good overall planning and design, consideration of climatic conditions, and connected communities. Scotland’s Housing to 2040 weaves them all together. The government website has additional downloads related to the document.

There is a short PDF version incorporating an infographic for those who want a quick overview. However, the page on Principles has little contrast between words and background so it is difficult to read. 

Key sections related to accessibility

“To make sure that we build in accessibility and adaptability to new homes and future proof them, we will introduce new building standards to underpin a Scottish Accessible Homes Standard which all new homes must achieve. This will mainstream a high standard of accessibility, delivering a step change in the availability of housing options for disabled people and enable the delivery of new homes in all sectors which can be readily adapted to meet varying needs. (p56)

“We will build on the review of the Housing for Varying Needs Design Guide and the implementation of all tenure wheelchair accessible housing targets, intending to introduce these new requirements into building standards from 2025/26 alongside the new Housing Standard. (p56)

“Provide help to older and disabled home owners who want to move to a home that better meets their needs. We will work with all those involved in making a house move happen, from the solicitors to removal companies, to develop a scheme that helps with every step of the process. We will also consider with banks the potential for cost effective bridging loan schemes to help people to move over several days and take the pressure off a single-day move. (p57)

Key Action

Action 20: Ensure that everyone who wants to is enabled to live independently in a home of their own.
• Review Housing for Varying Needs.
• Introduce a new focus on increasing the supply of accessible and adapted homes and improving choice, particularly for younger
disabled people.
• Use NPF4 to help make more accessible homes available by helping to deliver tenure-neutral wheelchair housing targets, supporting sites for self-provided housing and delivering homes in accessible locations.
• Introduce new building standards from 2025/26 to underpin a Scottish Accessible Homes Standard which all new homes must achieve. (p 63)

The timeline shows that the housing standard will be introduced in 2026 and will be fully enforced in 2030. It remains to be seen whether the ideas are implemented or stay as words on a page. Twenty years is a long time. 

Local Government and SDA

Front cover of Whittlesea housing diversity strategy.Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) is not just something the NDIS deals with. When it comes to planning and building, local government has to get involved. SDA will not solve all the housing problems for people with disability within a council area. So, the City of Whittlesea is pro-actively tackling this issue. Their approach is outlined in a paper for the upcoming Universal Design Conference.  

As Linda Martin-Chew points out in her paper, many people with disability are not eligible for SDA housing. So Council needed to understand the risks and benefits for residents with disability and the SDA market. As Whittlesea has a strong focus on access and inclusion they decided to take action. 

Linda’s paper, From niche to mainstream: local government and the specialist disability housing sector outlines how Council tackled the issues. This should make for an interesting and informative presentation at the Conference. 

Good Design for Social Housing

Front cover of the social housing brochure. A woman sits on the edge of a raised garden bed.Good design for social housing creates neighbourhoods where people feel they belong. The NSW Government has produced a four page brochure outlining their goals for social housing. Wellbeing, Belonging, Value and Collaboration are keywords. There is no explicit mention of universal design principles in this document, but there is in the one that links with it. This is the one on dwelling requirements for good design in social housing.

The more detailed document of dwelling requirements leads with legislation and codes. It follows with Universal Design Principles. They require all new stock to apply a minimum level of Silver as outlined in the Livable Housing Design Guidelines. Each development may require a percentage of Gold level as well.

The document goes on to provide unit and room dimensions. If the NSW Government can design Silver and even Gold into these relatively small areas then everyone else can too. There’s more detail in this 5 page document that covers siting, gardens, utilities and more. 

The documents are titled, Good Design for Social Housing, and Dwelling Requirements

The NSW Government Architect has also introduced a universal design approach into its overarching document, Better Placed. While the term “universal design” is not used explicitly, it is inherent in the way the document is written. 

 

Why do we need UD features in housing?

House half built showing timber frameworkTo answer the question: because it will benefit all Australians. UD features are easy to implement, and largely cost neutral, but the housing industry is fighting for the status quo. The two Royal Commissions related to aged care and disability care found that inaccessible housing prevented people from remaining at home and living independently. But there are a lot of myths and misconceptions in this space. 

The Building Better Homes campaign is about the call to mandate universally designed features in all new homes. It’s also about creating resilient, flexible and sustainable housing. These features will increase general amenity and allow people to age in place. For people with a disability, it will allow them to live independently. 

A line of complex manufacturing machinery used to show the complex process and number of stakeholders involved in mass market housing.It has to be regulated across the housing building system so that the process stays efficient. There are too many stakeholders to consider in one-off exceptions. 

Of course, most people resist change. This resistance is sometimes founded on misinformation and myths that get perpetuated. Evidence often gets lost in discussion or confused with opinions and anecdotes.

Jane Bringolf addresses some of the common myths and misunderstandings in her article, Why do we need universal design features in all new housing?  Myths and comments include:

      • only a few people need it
      • I’ll worry about it when the time comes
      • it costs too much
      • it will look like a hospital

Better Apartment Design Standards

Front cover of standard with internal view of an apartment.The Victorian Government has updated the Better Apartment Design Standards. The aim is to make surrounding neighbourhoods better as well as the dwellings. There is also a section on accessibility at the end. The policy’s main aims are:

      1. More green space
      2. Designing for families
      3. More durable and better quality materials
      4. Attractive and safe street frontages

A community fact sheet gives a good overview and there is a separate one for industry and councilsThere is a short video on their website explaining the changes.

The final draft report has more detail, and as always with these guideline documents, accessibility is tacked on at the end. However, it has some useful guidance and encourages 50% of dwellings to have the following:

• A clear opening width of at least 850mm at the entrance to the dwelling and main bedroom.
• A clear path with a minimum width of 1.2 metres that connects the dwelling entrance to the main bedroom, an adaptable bathroom and the living area.
• A main bedroom with access to an adaptable bathroom.
• At least one adaptable bathroom.

Some of the floor plans look to be based on the old Adaptable Housing Standard (AS4299) rather than the more flexible Livable Housing Design standard. 

Case studies of universally designed homes

Max and Tricia stand at their doorway which reflects their love of Japanese design.Lifemark in New Zealand has several good case studies of universally designed homes. Some are modest homes and some are more upmarket.

The latest edition of their newsletter features a spacious home with great views. The owners, Max and Tricia have an interesting story to tell. Max is a mechanical engineer who taught environmental and spatial home design to architecture students. He knew about accessibility but not heard of universal design. Turns out that one of Max’s students in 1995 became the designer of their new home. The story of Max and Tricia has some nice detail and pictures in the article. 

Not everyone has money to spend on a “grand design”, but it doesn’t have to be grand to be universally designed and suitable for everyone.  Lifemark has a gallery of homes designed with universal design principles on their website. There’s also some examples of retrofits. 

delete page https://universaldesignaustralia.net.au/case-study-of-a-ud-home/

UD in home design: a turning point

A front door with level, no step entry.Australia is at a turning point for introducing universal design (UD) features into all new housing. For almost twenty years advocacy groups have campaigned for homes to be accessible for everyone. That means current and future occupants as well as visitors. And you can add furniture deliveries and paramedics. Human rights, good economic sense and principles of inclusion are all wrapped up in well reasoned arguments. But will it be enough to persuade politicians to make the necessary changes to the National Construction Code? 

An article in Designs 4 Living magazine gives a quick overview of why we are at a turning point. After years of campaigning the issue is finally on the political agenda. The housing industry is campaigning for the status quo to remain. So, in spite of hard economic evidence to support basic universal design features, it will be a political decision.  

The article by Jane Bringolf is titled, UD in home design: A turning point for Australia. It’s on page 11 of the online publication.

There’s more background in a conference paper that unravels the complexities of the house building system in Australia and why regulation is the only option. The title is Barriers to Universal Design and What to do About Them. Also by Jane Bringolf.

CUDA made a submission supporting the inclusion of universal design features in all new housing.

Universal Design in Housing: A 20 year campaign

A graphic in shades of green showing various types of dwellingsAdvocates for universal design features in all new homes are nervous. State and territory building ministers will be making a decision on whether to make access features mandatory. Industry is advocating for no change to the building code. Some states claim they are already addressing the problem of accessible housing through piecemeal planning policies. Others think it’s something the NDIS is doing. Regardless, we need all new homes fit for purpose.

The evidence shows is not difficult to achieve – it’s very doable.  But evidence has largely been ignored about the need, the cost effectiveness, and the technical issues for more than ten years.  Will the evidence count, or will it be a political decision?

What will sway the politicians when they meet and vote on this in March? Will it be the evidence? Will it be the lobbying from industry? Will it be the lobbying from advocacy groups? Or will it be the voice of the people from a public petition?

Petitions are about people power. This is a one-time opportunity to sign the petition to give everyone a better chance of staying at home regardless of age or ability.

Every new home built today has a 60 percent chance of having an occupant with a disability.  Moreover, more than 30% of households currently have a person with disability – and this affects all members of the household. And it’s not just about people who use wheelchairs – it’s a mainstream issue.

You can find several research papers and articles on housing design policy on this website. The history of twenty years of advocacy and links to our international obligations are useful background. Our free online course on housing policy and universal design is also worth a look. 

Apartment Design Guides: Victoria, NSW & SA

Front cover of standard with internal view of an apartment.Here are three apartment design guides: Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. 

Reference to accessibility is the last item in the list of design considerations in this 2021 apartment guide from Victoria. However, it is a good reference with technical advice. Victoria says 50% of apartments should have as a minimum:

    • A clear door opening of at least 850mm at the entrance and main bedroom
    • A clear path of 1200mm between entrance and main bedroom, bathroom and living area
    • A main bedroom with access to an accessible bathroom
    • At least one accessible or adaptable bathroom

front cover of the apartment design guide.The NSW Department of Planning Apartment Design Guide includes a small section on universal design (P 118). In the design guidance section, it refers to the Livable Housing Design Guidelines (Silver Level, equivalent to visitability).  However, it suggests a proportional number (20%), which means universal design is not universally applied. Consequently, this becomes specialised housing rather than mainstream housing. The old Adaptable Housing Standard (AS4299) is also referenced. The new apartment guide replaces the NSW Residential Flat Design Code. The guide was published in 2015.

Photo used for front cover of guide. It shows an outdoor area similar to a veranda.The Housing for Life: Designed for Living guide was developed for the South Australian Government. Population ageing and ageing well polices underpin the report and guide. The features and factors that older people identified as important are documented as well as industry perspectives. It also outlines the economic arguments for considering the housing needs of older people. Examples of floor plans are included in the 2019 report which is 16 pages in PDF.

Healthy Home Guide

View of the website landing page.Joining the dots between all aspects of physical and social sustainability is important for a healthy life and a healthy planet. Central to this is the design of our homes. The Healthy Housing Design Guide from New Zealand says they need to be durable, efficient in size and cost, and friendly to the occupants and the environment.

The three bar menu icon on the landing page of this online resource takes you to the content of the Guide. Universal Design leads in the table of contents. This is pleasing as most other guides leave it to a last thought at the end. The design detail features wheelchair users for circulation spaces, which, of course are good for everyone. Among the interesting images is a lower storage draw doubling as a step for child to reach the kitchen bench. The case studies focus on energy efficiency and sustainability.

This is a comprehensive document starting with universal design, site and location, through to air quality and acoustics and ending with certifications. The Guide characterises a healthy home by the acronym HEROES:

      • Healthy: Promoting optimal health and wellbeing through its design, resilience, and efficiency.
      • Efficient: Size and space, affordable and energy positive for the life of the building.
      • Resilient: Resilient enough to withstand earthquakes and climatic conditions. Durable to stand the test of time.
      • On purpose:  Designed specifically with Heroes in mind and fit for purpose.
      • Environmental: Socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable to build and run. Considerate of Climate Change.
      • Sustainable: Meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The style of the website is pleasing but the landing page gives little idea to navigation. It says “Welcome” and then asks visitors to stay super involved. There is a bar with an arrow to go to the Foreword. The navigation is via the three bar menu icon at the top left of the page. 

Editor’s note: I first thought that I had to sign up to get access because the first thing my cursor met was “Stay Super Involved”. It was not obvious to me that the three bar menu icon was the entry point. I later found, when writing this post, that there is a tab on the right hand side of the webpage that takes you page by page. It would be interesting to know if this document is accessible for screen readers.

The video from the launch of the guide takes you through the content. Universal Design gets a mention at the 25 minute mark. It is introduced by Henry McTavish.