MEDIA RELEASE – 17 August 2016

ACT Greens policy on disability and ageing access in new homes is flawed and will add more stress on housing affordability in the ACT

Community Alliance Party candidate for Murrumbidgee, Michael Lindfield said, “the announced ACT Greens policy of today to improve access in new homes for disability and ageing people is poor policy on the run. It is not clearly thought through and that’s not good enough for a major political party who has one of its members as a Minister in the current ACT Government.

“I question their source information and the inadequate explanation of what “liveable housing design silver level” involves.  Frankly, the announcement will, over time, be detrimental to housing affordability in the ACT by adding more regulation, which will ultimately be passed onto to the homebuyer and people who can least afford the proposed changes.

“There is a strong likelihood to exert political pressure for ‘incrementally creep’ from Silver to Gold to Platinum level requirements.  The end outcome will be a ballooning housing affordability nightmare particularly for couples, young families, low income workers and the aged dependent on pensions.

“Essentially what the ACT Greens are saying is that they will, if given the balance of power, hold the Government of the day to make it mandatory to implement Liveable Australia Housing Design Guidelines across all new constructions in the ACT.  The community should be aware of this seemingly hoodwink.

“The ACT Greens statement of “60% of people will need this at some time in their life” has been taken from out dated research undertaken in the United State in 2008 from a publication in the Journal of the American Planning Association called Ageing & disability: Implications for the housing industry and housing policy in the United States.

“The ACT Greens statement about adopting a Silver Level housing design “will actually [be] 22 times more efficient” has also been taken from an out dated New Zealand Ministry of Social Development publication in 2009 called, Economic effects of utilising Lifemark at a National level.   

“The statistics the ACT Greens are spruiking are found on page 10 of Liveable Housing Design, 3rd Edition 2013 (reprinted in July 2015) which are referenced at the bottom.

“Generally speaking, Silver Level does not cost a lot to implement, depending on the builder.  It basically involves:

  • 1.0m clearance in hallways/entry for wheelchair access.
  • 920 door to one bedroom and one bathroom/ensuite/toilet.
  • install noggings to walls in toilet, bath and ensuite so that grab rails can be installed later on if an aged of person with a disability becomes the occupant.
  • no hobb in shower recess.
  • slab should ramp up to the front door to allow an aged or disabled person wheelchair access to the dwelling, however, this could compromise the termite barrier.  It would be preferable to have a step up into the dwelling of about 90mm and have a portable metal or wooden ramp which you can be bought from any leading hardware retail outlet for a small cost.

However there is a real risk of lack of understanding by the builder of the requirements and some builders could misinterpret the requirements and may come back with costings that are way excessive per dwelling.

“There are also limitations to Silver Level compliance that it doesn’t work on sloping sites due to need for steps and ramps; and it is getting more difficult to comply with these requirements as lot sizes reduce and you’re forced to build two-storey houses.

“To my knowledge, there is no body that audits these dwellings of Silver, Gold, Platinum requirements so in that sense the public (eg. visitors, family and friends) and the home occupier safety could be compromised. It seems to be based on trust – that the builder will do the right thing.  There is a very real chance that consumers could be exploited in paying for the additional requirements without getting them, particularly in the case of Silver Level.

“The only silver lining about the initiative is that the ACT government could consider Silver Level in all future new public or social housing, particularly aimed at the aged and those with a disability but to inflict it on the private sector there is adding far too much regulation and cost with no gain,” Michael Lindfield said.

“If this is the ACT Green’s first election commitment then we need to scrutinise every one they release as the facts underpinning their policies don’t measure up and for this particular one, horribly floored with reliance on out dated statistics from foreign countries. The ACT Greens have access to far more resources than a minor political party like the Community Alliance Party to do policy development.

“Michael Lindfield said, “I ask the rate and tax payers in the Kambah, Molonglo Valley, Weston Creek and Woden area suburbs to seriously consider voting for me as their first choice and a responsible Community Alliance Party for a accountable, stable and progressive representation,” 

Contact:  Michael Lindfield 0401 253 782

Background and reference points

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/greens-would-improve-disability-ageing-access-in-new-homes-20160816-gqttjh.html

http://www.livablehousingaustralia.org.au/library/SLLHA_GuidelinesJuly2015-3.pdf

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