A minimalist step-free shower; a corridor wide enough for a sofa; and a front entry you don’t have to wrestle the pram up.
These features are part of a voluntary building code to be released today by the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, Bill Shorten. The code would improve a home’s value and also make life easier for Australians with mobility issues, advocates said.
An ageing population of baby boomers who dislike stairs and young parents wanting better safety for toddlers are key targets for the Liveable Housing Design, the consumer-facing brand of the code developed with the property industry.
The national convener of the advocacy group Australian Network for Universal Housing Design, Amelia Starr, said the fashionable step-free shower was already standard in homemaker magazines, while wider corridors were useful to anyone moving furniture.
US research showed 90 per cent of newly built homes would at some point have someone with a mobility issue residing there. Too many Australian homes were unable to adapt to a family’s evolving needs, let alone wheelchair use, Ms Starr said.
”We hope people will say I want that brand in my home because then it can be sold off to the widest range of people possible,” she said.
The Property Council of Australia chief executive, Peter Verwer, said: ”It makes good sense to design homes so they evolve with their users. It works as well for mums to be as it does for senior Australians.”
The new standards grew from several meetings between Mr Shorten and Therese Rein with industry groups including the Master Builders, Australian Institute of Architects, the Property Council and the Herald journalist Cynthia Banham. The last meeting was held two days before Kevin Rudd stepped down as prime minister.
The code will be launched today by Mr Shorten at a Penrith housing development that already adopts its features.
The Master Builders chief executive, Wilhelm Harnisch, said: ”Improving the safety of kitchens and other areas means people can stay longer in the home instead of going to an aged care facility.”
Story by Kirsty Needham www.smh.com.au