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PM faces pressure in open letter over 'critical' housing issue

Jessica Yun
·2-min read
(Source: Getty)
(Source: Getty)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is facing calls to address the lack of accessibility of houses in an open letter penned by 30 groups, representing people with disability, older Australians, health organisations, homeless groups and charities.

The ‘Building Better Homes’ campaign is calling for minimum accessibility requirements to be included in the National Building Code, which requires new buildings to be constructed safely and sustainably.

The changes would see at least one entry to properties without a step, and light fittings at a certain height, for example.

“A lack of accessible housing is leaving many Australians unable to access housing that is appropriate to their needs,” the campaign website states. “This impacts quality of life, employment opportunities and productivity.”

Aussies living in homes that don’t meet their needs are left paying for modifications as well as paid and unpaid care.

But the number of Australians with a physical disability is expected to double from 3 million to nearly 6 million over the next 40 years, the campaign said.

Some signatories to the campaign include the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS), Council on the Ageing (COTA), National Disability Services (NDS), St Vincent’s Care Services, and Building Designers Association of Australia.

Building ministers across Australia are set to meet in early 2021 to decide whether to add the minimum accessibility standards.

“This will be a critical decision for the hundreds of thousands of Australians with mobility impairments who cannot get access to housing that meets their needs.”

Former disability discrimination commissioner, Graeme Innes, who is blind, said in a video that most homes in Austraila currently bar people with disabilities.

But the changes would improve everyone’s lives, he said.

“It’s very rare that an access benefit doesn’t benefit a whole lot of others in society. And if we make our homes accessible to everyone, that means everyone can live out of their own home.”

Yahoo Finance has reached out to Building Better Homes for comment.

Australian comedian and film director Tim Ferguson, who now uses a wheelchair due to multiple sclerosis, is also a signatory to the campaign, and said accessibility was a key function to constructing a building.

“Accessibility standards will mean that firstly, I can come around to your place. When you’re having a party, you don’t have to say, ‘oh no, we can’t have Tim’.”

“Mandatory accessibility standards are critical because, face it, one day, your family, your friends, your work colleagues, people you know – and even you – are going to need them.”

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