Disability-friendly housing standards promoted

THE housing industry, disability sector and community have agreed to an aspirational target that all new homes will be built to disability-friendly Livable Housing Design standards by 2020.

The standards, announced last week, are the outcome of the National Dialogue on Universal Design, convened by Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities Bill Shorten last year, which aims to improve the availability of Livable Housing.

The voluntary Livable Housing Design guidelines consist of three levels: Silver, Gold and Platinum and outline the key features required to meet each standard.

Mr Shorten said Livable Design aimed to build houses that could be adapted to meet the changing needs of residents over their lifetime. He said the standards would become important as Australia's population aged and disability became more common.

Australian Bureau of Statistics research shows that between 1981 and 2003, the number of people with a disability more than doubled from 1.9 million to 3.9 million.

"These are houses which are easier to live in, can be adapted more cheaply, and will be easier to sell," Mr Shorten said. "Livable Housing Design is housing which meet the needs of all people, including people with disability and senior Australians," he said.

Mr Shorten said families with young children, injured people or anyone who has a friend with a disability will also benefit from Livable Design. He said a few design features such as reinforced bathroom walls, flat housing entrances and wide corridors and doorways would potentially make a home more suitable for an older person or person with a disability.

The industry has also agreed to a set of voluntary guidelines for housing, which will be used to inform consumers and the industry about Universal Design, and increase its application.

While the standards are voluntary, key industry groups have supported them and committed to the 2020 target. Such groups include the Property Council, Master Builders Australia and the Housing Industry Association.

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