The Northern Territory has thrown its support behind new accessible housing laws - which will be designed to make it easier for seniors to age-in-place - after a split among State Governments on the major reform.
On 13 May, the Northern Territory Government announced it had voted with the majority of State and Territory Ministers to include accessibility provisions for residential housing and apartments for new homes being built from next year.
Northern Territory Minister for Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics Eva Lawler said: "We want all Territorians to own a piece of the Territory which fits their needs."
“There is an undersupply of accessible housing in Australia and the Territory. Increasing the available stock of accessible housing provides support for people with mobility limitations and those who assist them, to fully participate in the community.
“The Territory Government considered the costs and potential benefits and considers it necessary to support a regulatory approach for this matter, as the voluntary approach has not seen significant increases in accessible housing stock.”
Ms Lawler said that while steps have been taken to improve accessibility features for public housing in the Territory, finding a suitable rental home or home to purchase on the private market can be incredibly challenging for Territorians with a mobility-related disability.
The national minimum accessibility standards will include features based on the silver standard of the Liveable Housing Design Guidelines, such as:
- At least one step-free entrance door
- Wider internal doors and corridors
- Toilet on ground level (or entry level)
Ms Lawler said exemptions would be in place for elevated houses, which are popular in the Northern Territory because they promote natural ventilation in the northern region's warm climate. Exemptions would also be in place for steep slopes and small lots.
Ms Lawler said the up-front inclusion of these features will cost around one per cent of the building cost, far less than the cost to retrofit, and will help facilitate elderly Territorians and those living with disability to stay in their homes longer.
The new provisions will apply to new houses and apartments and do not require existing homes to be modified.
On 3 May, Downsizing.com.au revealed that while Queensland, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory have all backed the proposed changes, New South Wales has said it will be opting out because the reform was "blunt, inflexible, and unworkable". South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania have yet to announce their position.
CEO of the Council of the Ageing, Sue Shearer said: "COTA NT and COTA organisational around Australia welcome this decision. Delighted that the NT Minister supported this decision.”
Executive Officer of NT Shelter, Peter McMillan said: "Minimum accessibility standards for new builds will see more Territorians living independently in homes that are safe, secure and appropriate for their future physical needs”
Find out more
- Northern Territory media release
- Australia’s largest State rejects proposed seniors-friendly accessible housing laws
- How downsizers can ensure their new home is accessible and safe
Downsizing.com.au has Australia’s best range of retirement and downsizing-friendly property - start your search here