Universal design in all new housing: Keeping COAG to account Dr Margaret Ward, Australian Network for Universal Housing Design

This presentation outlines the journey from 2010 when the housing industry agreed to include universal design features voluntarily in all new housing by 2020 to the current commitment by COAG to perform a Regulatory Impact Assessment of mandating accessibility in private housing within the National Construction Code.  The failure of the voluntary approach to providing universal design in all new housing should be of no surprise.  There is little incentive for the housing industry to change their design practices to consider the possible future needs of individual housing occupants within a market-driven environment. The housing industry has even less interest in further regulation in a highly competitive environment responding to private investors and home-buyers.  Since 2002, the Australian Network for Universal Housing Design has consistently called for regulation. They have always maintained there is a public interest in the provision of universal design in private spaces, if Australia is to build accessible and inclusive communities. Universally-designed airports, shopping centres and casinos are of little use to those who cannot even live safely in their homes. For some time, both State and Commonwealth governments have espoused high ideals on access and inclusion and have heavily invested in keeping people with disability and older people at home with their families and community for as long as possible. The need for a systemic approach to housing to support these programs is now of national concern.  Yet, the timid and disconnected initiatives by governments to improve the supply of universally designed housing have been largely ineffective.  It has taken those most affected, including people with disability, older people and their families, to call COAG to account and to ensure a thorough and timely Regulatory Impact Assessment is done.  COAG now must take a public interest in the design of private housing, manage the self-interest of the housing industry, and build universally-designed residential environments for future Australians.