Livable Housing Design: Not our problem

Easy access inside and out of this home.Why do we keep building homes as if we are never going to grow old? The answer is complex. But the perceptions of developers, designers and builders gives us some insights. A Brisbane study collected data from site-visits, building documents and interviews with industry stakeholders. Four key themes emerged showing why nothing has changed: voluntary approach, otherness, immediacy, and inertia.

The strongest theme was the voluntary approach. Being a first mover is considered too risky by industry stakeholders. Consequently, there is no motivation to change practices. There is a view that people needing inclusive housing are not part of the mainstream market – they are “others”. Therefore, the answer to the problem is group homes and retirement villages. Inclusive design is assumed to be ugly and undesirable. Therefore, marketing these features will not work.

For now or for later?

For industry, the focus is the new home buyer not the long term use of the dwelling. So builders assumed that a young family wouldn’t want it. Consequently, there isn’t a market for it. Inertia, was expressed as the reluctance to “change the way we do things around here”. The culture of building by rote dominates the house building system.

There is more in this study about interventions that might assist, one being regulation. Keeping a competitive level playing field is paramount in the industry. The key point is that inclusive housing is considered someone else’s responsibility and is not a mainstream concern. Consequently the Livable Housing Design Guidelines are insufficient in themselves to bring about change. 

The title of the open access article is, Livable Housing Design: The voluntary provision of inclusive housing in Australia. Although published in 2014 the document remains current. Although there is to be a change to the building code in 2022 to mandate accessible features, not all states agree.  

The picture is from the gallery of Lifetime Homes in Tasmania.  

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