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New national standards for accessible housing

Tasmania has recorded the highest number of monthly dwelling approvals in a decade, with 369 being reported, which is expected to continue according to the state government.

A majority of State and Territory Building Ministers have agreed to include a national minimum standard for new housing in the National Construction Code.

The minimum accessibility standard will form part of the National Construction Code 2022 public comment draft, which is scheduled to be released on 10 May.

Under the changes, new homes will be required to include features such as step free entry, step free showers, ground level accessible toilets, structural reinforcements to support grab rail installation in bathrooms and for doorways and transitional spaces to allow ease of movement.

The reforms are expected to increase the availability of homes with accessibility features to 50 percent of Australia’s total housing stock by 2050.

Queensland Public Works and Procurement Minister Mick de Brenni said the standards will also include sensible exemptions for steep slopes, small lots and, of course, continuing to allow traditional styles like the iconic Queenslander to be a feature of our cities and towns.

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“The up-front inclusion of these features will cost as little as one per cent of the building cost, however many designs already have them included, compared to almost 20 times the cost to retrofit,” he said.

“The cost to retrofit, and the cost to society through inequity, demands on social housing and homelessness and family dislocation, is far, far greater.

“These changes will make a tremendous difference to the lives of people with mobility limitations, where a single step can be an insurmountable obstacle to social and economic participation.”

De Brenni said the new standards would be especially important for senior, with significant growth expected in the number of Australians remaining in their homes as they age.

“Housing should be designed to accommodate all people, regardless of their age or disability,” de Brenni said.

“From young families with children to those with a temporary injury or permanent disability as well as the elderly, these reforms will benefit everyone.

“Finding a suitable rental home or home to purchase can be incredibly challenging for the 3.8 million seniors and the 4.4 million Australians with a mobility-related disability.”

The Victorian Building Authority’s Chief Executive Officer Sue Eddy said accessible housing should be available to everyone.

“This is a much-needed step forward both in Victoria and nationwide, allowing consumers a greater choice of where they live and easier access to support within buildings,” Eddy said.

“Accessibility in the built environment means designing and building homes, and commercial buildings that are suitable for any occupant, regardless of their age or ability – this will now be compulsory.

“It also gives those living with a disability the independence they want and deserve in their own home – allowing them to do things that we all take for granted.”

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