This article from Penny Galbraith was written when the Australian Building Codes Board called for responses to their Options Paper on Accessible Housing. The title of Penny’s paper presented at the recent UD Conference in Ireland is, Home Coming? A Story of Reassurance, Opportunity and Hope for Universally Designed Housing in Australia. Using facts and figures, she challenges the many false assumptions that the industry and others hold about the need for universal design in housing. She also covers assumptions about costs. So yes, it’s possible.
This paper shows the complexity of housing and how it is the linch-pin for achieving economic, social and human rights imperatives. In Australia there are no minimum housing standards; the effect is now critical. In October 2017, a regulatory impact assessment was instructed, to consider Livable Housing Australia’s Silver and Gold standards, for inclusion in the National Construction Code. A substantial research project provided a knowledge and evidence base of the policy perspective; an expanded statistical context; and detailed analyses of Silver, Gold and Platinum design levels.
The policy perspective included greater economic focus. The effect on productivity, directly attributable to housing, is significant. 34 specific policy ‘problems’ were identified that could be solved or mitigated if acceptable standards of housing were introduced. It is reassuring that universal design has permeated all levels of government policy. The statistical context explored demographics, households, dwelling types; tenure; occupants; disability and carers. Detailed analyses challenged many common assumptions and re-framed accessible housing into a mainstream problem.
73% of all dwellings are separate houses and the average home has 3.1 bedrooms. There are tremendous opportunities for universally design-led mainstream solutions. The compliance gap analyses show which design features might cost more; have potential to be designed out; or be cost neutral. Many design features are cost neutral and arguably should be included within mandated standards. As there is a minimal gap between universal design standards and current housing, there is hope that all Australians will, one day, live in a universally designed home.
The article is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.
See related free online learning, Home Coming? Framing housing policy for the future.