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Accessible Housing Proposals released for comment

July 26, 2020

The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) has released a consultation paper looking at the costs associated with introducing mandatory accessible housing features for all new homes and apartments in the National Construction Code (NCC) 2022.

What’s been released?

The ABCB has released a Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (RIS). A Consultation RIS is a detailed way to understand the costs and benefits associated with a proposed change in building standards. A RIS looks at more than one option to address a problem and should consider regulatory (mandatory) options and non-regulatory (voluntary) options. A RIS should provide a comprehensive assessment of the costs and benefits for each option.

What does it mean for new houses and apartments?

If the changes are approved, all new houses, dual occupancies, townhouses, villas, apartments, granny flats and other houses will need to incorporate accessible housing features.

What are the accessible housing options being considered?

The Building Ministers’ Forum (Government Ministers responsible for building regulations in each State/Territory) requested the ABCB assess the Liveable Housing Design Guidelines (LHDG) as a basis for potential accessible housing features for all new houses and apartments.

The Consultation RIS reviews 6 potential accessible housing options:

  • Option 1 - Adopting the Silver LHDG design features for all houses and apartments
  • Option 2 - Adopting the Gold LHDG design features for all houses and apartments
  • Option 3 - Adopting a combination of LHDG design features for all houses and apartments
  • Option 4 - Adopting the Gold LHDG design features for apartments only
  • Option 5 - Enhanced voluntary option incorporating direct subsidies for households requiring tailored support
  • Option 6 - Publication of the LHD Guidelines as a voluntary ABCB handbook and creation of a real estate match making service.

What are the mandatory accessible housing features being considered?

Option 1 and 4 propose adopting the Silver LHDG features which include a step free entry to a house (from the boundary or garage), wider hallways and doorways, toilets or bathrooms on the ground floor or entrance level, reinforcing of bathroom walls for future installation of grabrails, step free showers and circulation spaces in bathrooms and toilets. Additional features are included in Options 2 and 3.

What does the RIS recommend?

The RIS does not provide make a recommendation.

It does include a conclusion that based on the evidence gathered, the costs associated with mandatory accessible housing features in the NCC would outweigh the benefits. The RIS suggests a combination of non-regulatory options could be delivered at low cost and encourage additional uptake without imposing excessive costs on all new dwellings.

How did we get here?

In 2017 Building Ministers nationally requested that the ABCB undertake a process to consider potential regulation of accessible housing features for all new houses and apartments in the NCC. The request asked that the ABCB use the Liveable Housing Design Guidelines (silver and gold levels) as a starting point.

In 2018 the ABCB published an Options Paper with a range of potential regulatory options and sought feedback. This Paper set out indicative costs to incorporate the livable housing features in homes across a range of site conditions, from simple to difficult. HIA provided a comprehensive response to the Options Paper.

When will a decision be made?

The Consultation RIS is just one step in the decision making process. Following public consultation on the RIS, the ABCB will prepare a Final RIS to assist Building Ministers (federal, state and territory governments) decide whether they support further development of proposed changes for inclusion in the NCC 2022.

If Ministers agree to proceed, the additional design requirements for the Building Code of Australia Volume 1 and Volume 2 would be released for public comment as part of the draft NCC 2022 in early 2021.

A final decision by Ministers would need to be made in late 2021 or early 2022 to allow the changes to be included in the NCC 2022.

How can you find out more?

The Accessible Housing Consultation RIS is available online from the ABCB.

In addition to the RIS, several other reports are available to help members understand the potential changes and the costs associated:

What should members do?

Members should take time to understand the process the ABCB is undertaking and to review the draft NCC provisions.

An online member briefing will be provided in the next 4 weeks. More details on this will be available shortly.

HIA encourages members to make their own submissions to the ABCB on the RIS before 31 August 2020.

Member comments for RIS

HIA Technical