Home coming? A story of reassurance, opportunity and hope for universally designed housing in Australia Dr Penny Galbraith

This paper shows the complexity of housing and how it is the linch-pin for achieving economic, social and human rights imperatives.   In Australia there are no minimum housing standards; the effect is now critical.  In October 2017, a regulatory impact assessment was instructed, to consider Livable Housing Australia’s Silver and Gold standards, for inclusion in the National Construction Code.  Research was undertaken to provide a knowledge and evidence base upon which to evaluate the role and importance of housing and minimum housing standards in Australia.  It is intended to use the research to inform the Regulatory Impact Assessment process and wider housing policy. The research broadens the policy perspective, provides an expanded statistical context; and detailed analyses of Silver, Gold and Platinum design levels.  The policy perspective includes greater economic focus, including the significant effect on productivity directly attributable to housing.  Housing is suffering from ‘policy-lag’.  34 specific policy ‘problems’ are identified that could be solved or mitigated if acceptable standards of housing were introduced.  It is reassuring that universal design has permeated all levels of government policy. The statistical context explores demographics, households, dwelling types; tenure; occupants; disability and carers.  Detailed analyses challenge many common assumptions and re-frames accessible housing into a mainstream problem.  73% of all dwellings are separate houses and the average home has 3.1 bedrooms. There are tremendous opportunities for universally design-led mainstream solutions.  The compliance gap analyses show which design features might cost more; have potential to be designed out; or be cost neutral.  Many design features are cost neutral and arguably should be included within mandated standards.  As there is a minimal gap between universal design standards and current housing, there is hope that all Australians will, one day, live in a universally designed home.