Economic arguments for universal design in housing

A line of complex manufacturing machinery used to show the complex process and number of stakeholders involved in mass market housing.The 2022 National Construction Code has at last included the Livable Housing Design Standard. Citizen advocacy and political will made this happen. But there were strong economic arguments. Research papers have produced solid economic arguments for universal design in housing over many years. However, these arguments failed in their quest. So the issues are beyond those of economics. For those who want the research, here is a list of papers, including the cost effectiveness of home modifications (or not needing them in the first place). 

Selected articles on economic arguments

The cost of NOT including accessibility in new homes This landmark article by Smith, Rayer and Smith (2008) uses complex economic methodologies to show that a new home built today has a 60% likelihood of having an occupant with a permanent disability. People with disability live in families – not alone – which is often forgotten. They followed up this work in 2011 with similar results.

Universal design in housing: is cost the real issue?  The Dalton-Carter economic evaluation disputes the Australian Building Codes Boards economic study. 

A cost benefit analysis of adaptable homes by urban economist Martin Hill of Hill PDA. This 1999 conference paper shows how long these arguments have been running. The context is adaptable housing – the forerunner of universal design concepts in housing. 

Home adaptations: Costs? or Savings? A survey of local authorities and Home Improvement Agencies: Identifying the hidden cost of providing a home adaptations service. 

Accessible housing: costs and gains This article evaluates the costs and gains of modifying homes

Using Building Information Modeling with Universal Design Strategies. This article develops a technical framework to evaluate the costs and benefits of building projects. 

Universal design in housing from a planning perspective. A comprehensive look at the housing landscape, an ageing population, and the need for universal design in housing.

Universal design in housing – does it really have to cost more? In a down to earth fashion Kay Saville-Smith discusses the “size fraud”

Three stacks of coins sit alongside a wooden cut-out of a house shape.

Requirements and opinions of three groups of people (aged under 35, between 35 and 50, and over 50 years) to create a living space suitable for different life situations.

Barriers to Universal Design in Australian Housing is a short paper based on a thesis. It gives an indication of why economic arguments alone are insufficient to bring about change.  

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