A new National Construction Code coming in 2022 is likely to include requirements for ground-floor toilets and wider internal doors and corridors to better accommodate the needs of all Australians.
A new statement from Queensland’s Minister for Public Works and Procurements, Mick de Brenni, has outlined that a majority of state and territory building ministers have agreed to include a national minimum standard for new housing in the public comment draft of the National Construction Code 2022.
According to Mr de Brenni, a minimum accessibility standard will ensure “safe, secure and liveable housing — especially for seniors”.
It will be all the more important given the number of Australians expected to remain in their homes as they age.
“Housing should be designed to accommodate all people, regardless of their age or disability,” the minister 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.”
He argued that the relatively simple and cost-effective fit-out of homes with accessibility features “would also mean the elderly can stay in their homes longer, enabling full and continued participation in life, like work, volunteering and family interactions”.
The minimum accessibility standard will now form part of the National Construction Code 2022 public comment draft, which is scheduled to be released on 10 May, the minister outlined.
He said that the national minimum accessibility standard would include “simple but crucial features at the silver standard of the Livable Housing Design Guidelines”.
Those guidelines include at least one step-free entrance door, wider internal doors and corridors, and the inclusion of a toilet on ground level — or at entry level.
The code will also integrate “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”, Mr de Brenni explained.
“The upfront inclusion of these features will cost as little as 1 per cent of the building cost; however, many designs already have them included, compared to almost 20 times the cost to retrofit.”
From his perspective, “the cost to retrofit, and the cost to society through inequity, demands on social housing and homelessness and family dislocation, is far, far greater”.
Council on the Ageing (COTA) Queensland chief executive Mark Tucker-Evans said the move would “change the life of hundreds of thousands of Australians who are currently limited in their day-to-day activities simply because their housing doesn’t meet their needs”.
He flagged that a lack of accessible care in Australia “has forced many older Australians into residential care, when the majority of older Australians would rather age at home”.
“This decision is a strong recognition that every Australian deserves a home which is safe, secure and meets their needs,” the CEO concluded.