Take a look around, especially if you’ve not seen your home put to the test of moving around in a wheelchair. How does it shape up? And not just for now, or for you and your current household, but maybe in 5 or 10 years for a future household?
Would its very design and construction enable someone with accessibility needs reasonable mobility, privacy and amenity?
Under current policy, there might be a better chance of saying “yes” in a future new dwelling in Victoria or Queensland than in NSW.
Last year the nation took a step forward with the establishment of the National Construction Code (NCC) – a uniform framework for the design, construction and performance of buildings across the country. The NCC has been signed up to by the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments. The Code sets out a requirement for all new dwellings to be built to at least Silver Level Liveable Housing Design Standards. This includes accessibility features like wider doorways, an entry level toilet and at least one level entry accessway. That’s the good news. The bad news is that these particular requirements are opt-in with NSW refusing to adopt them as a mandatory requirement (unlike states like Victoria and Queensland).
Shelter NSW was happy to contribute to this media story concerning people with disabilities having fewer choices in the housing market. While the NSW state government has adopted this standard for all new social and affordable housing, we know that main game is in the much larger private housing market. And of course, as our CEO John Engeler notes in this same article, there is also an issue of retrofitting existing homes. With newly-constructed dwellings making up such a small part of total housing stock, can we really wait 100 years to create truly accessible housing for everyone?
We’ve got so many existing properties, and given 1 per cent of NSW homes are built every year, it would take 100 years before any real change comes,” Engeler said. “People with a disability shouldn’t miss out on the amenities everyone else gets”– John Engeler, CEO Shelter NSW, SMH 22 July 2022
There is a pretty strong chance that the home you live in will be occupied by a person with a disability at some time during its lifecycle. We join fellow peak bodies like the Physical Disability Council of NSW (quoted in this article) in calling on the NSW Government to actively adopt the “silver” level accessibility standards to dramatically improve the chances that housing in NSW properly and better support people with disabilities.