A leading disability support organisation says it is extremely disappointed to hear media comments from Master Builders Queensland, calling on the Queensland Government to delay upcoming changes that will make new homes more accessible.
Mandatory minimum accessibility standards will be introduced into the National Construction Code from 1 May, with a transition period until 1 October 2023 allowing the building industry more time to become compliant.
Spinal Life Australia Chief Advisor – Government, John Mayo, said people with disabilities have been waiting decades for equality.
“Minimum levels of housing accessibility have been the subject of discussion for many years, including extensive consultation processes, so the building industry has had plenty of notice,” Mr Mayo said.
“Many people with disabilities are already facing homelessness given the lack of accessible housing and current shortages in the rental market; some are unable to leave hospital as they have nowhere to go, despite being ready for discharge.
“We know people with disabilities are being forced to live in homes that are not suitable for their needs, in environments that are potentially dangerous for their health and wellbeing.
“These changes will also have a huge benefit for older Australians who are also finding it difficult to access suitable housing.”
As part of the changes, voted through at the national Building Ministers Meeting in August last year, all new homes will be built to the Silver level of Livable Housing Australia accessibility standards.
This includes one step-free entry into the home, wider doors and corridors, and a toilet on the entry level. Exemptions have been made for steep blocks and elevated Queenslander homes.
“This is about updating housing designs – there are no new products or building techniques that need to be developed,” Mr Mayo said.
“While we understand there are challenges, we want to work with the industry to meet the deadline. People with disability have waited long enough.”
In the 2010 National Dialogue for Universal Housing Design, government, housing industry and community sector representatives agreed on staged incremental targets to deliver accessible housing over 10 years, using the Livable Housing Australia guidelines. These representatives included the Master Builders Association and the Housing Industry Association.
The agreement was not mandatory and by 2020, not a single target had been met.