Building all new homes to an agreed universal design standard: Understanding the perceived costs and benefits to Australian society Dr Courtney Wright, Griffith University

It is widely acknowledged that housing is a social determinant of health and wellbeing. Yet, many thousands of Australians with reduced physical capacity incur significant housing challenges that impact on their quality of life. Due to existing housing design standards and a subsequent lack of physically accessible housing in the private sector, ageing Australians and people with short-term, long-term, or life-long illness or injury are often forced to: (a) modify their home at significant expense, (b) relocate to an undesirable residential environment such as a group home or nursing home, or (c) remain in their physically inaccessible property where they (and/or their family or non-family carers) are at high risk of injury. In response to persistent advocacy from people with disability and their supporters, the Australian Government established the National Dialogue on Universal Housing Design (NDUHD) in 2009, to address the lack of inclusive housing in Australia. The National Dialogue comprised housing industry leaders, community leaders and others, and argued for an industry-led voluntary approach over 10 years, a national guideline and a strategic plan with the aspirational goal that “all new homes will be of an agreed Universal Housing Design standard by 2020” (NDUHD, 2010). A year later, the Council of Australian Governments’ 2010-2020 National Disability Strategy included a commitment by all three levels of government to work with the National Dialogue towards meeting their 2020 target. Owing to a perceived lack of consumer demand, however, the voluntary uptake of Universal Housing Design has been met with resistance to implement by the housing and construction sector. This has resulted in a relatively unchanged housing landscape for many individuals who require physically accessible housing to support inclusion and participation in family and community life. This research aimed to investigate the perceived costs and benefits to Australian society if all new homes were built to an agreed Universal Design standard. Findings from this research revealed conflicting views of participants surrounding a person’s rights (and whose rights take priority), as well as the perceived financial impact of change. This presentation will detail the research findings, its implications, and suggest future research directions.

1 The Hopkins Centre, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia;

 2 Australian Network for Universal Housing Design, Strawberry Hills, Australia