UD in housing: Beyond wheelchairs

Graphic with orange and red buildings depicting several sizes of home from small house to apartment block.“Accessible” housing is more than wheelchairs and mobility for occupants and visitors. However, this is the perspective that the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) has taken to its consultation paper on the proposal to include accessibility features for housing in the building code. This approach does not consider the broader picture for individuals, families and the community. This matters because it has to do with costs, who pays them and how they are measured. 

A cost benefit analysis is an economic exercise. It does not measure outcomes. And because outcomes are a bit harder to measure, they often get left out. However, the change to the building code for public adult change toilets did measure more than the cost of the building. So it can be done.

The Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) recommends no changes to the building code based on costs outweighing benefits. The calculations were based on the Silver and Gold levels of the Livable Housing Design Guidelines that were established in 2010. These voluntary Guidelines were devised by the housing industry and drafted to minimise any extra cost. 

This RIS is a very complicated set of documents. There is a five page overview of the project and how the RIS works. You can provide feedback by answering questions online.  Do not be put off by questions you can’t answer. Just answer the ones you can. You can also submit a document by email to Kieran O’Donnell.

The RIS provides options other than Silver or Gold level of the Livable Housing Design Guidelines. CUDA and the Australian Network for Universal Housing Design recommend Option 2, Gold level, as being the most workable minimum with the greatest benefit for the cost. What is really clear is that voluntary guidelines have failed to make the change happen. That’s why we have the push to make them mandatory.

The Consultation Hub has all the documents related to the project at the bottom of the page. Documents are provided in PDF and Word. They include the cost benefit analysis, and a preliminary draft for the building code should changes be approved. 

Note that in the preliminary draft for the building code they have reduced the doorway widths and step free doorways. They have deviated from the Livable Housing Design Guidelines. Of course if you can’t get in or out then any other features are a waste of time. 

You can read CUDA’s response to the Accessible Housing Options Paper for background and context. CUDA’s response to the RIS will be posted on this website before the closing date of 31 August.

CUDA also made a submission to the NSW Housing Strategy Discussion paper in July 2020.

There is a list of housing resources in a previous post. Or use the search facility on this website.