Progress on the National Dialogue on Universal Housing Design

  • In 2010 the National Dialogue on Universal Housing Design was a gallant initiative by the former Labor Government to improve the supply of accessible housing in Australia. It sought the goodwill of community, human rights and housing industry leaders to agree on a national guideline and a plan to change housing design and construction practice voluntarily. It differed from previous voluntary initiatives by committing to measurable targets which were then endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments in the 2010-2020 National Disability Strategy. Five years on, community groups across Australia have seen little change in the practices of housing providers, and have realised they have been sold a lie. The words succeeded to convince the stakeholders that action would happen—but the policy failed. The Australian Network on Universal Housing Design with Rights and Inclusion Australia anticipate that less than 5% of the 2020 target will be achieved.

    In the next five years, the housing industry is likely to continue business as usual; voluntary change without clear market gain has rarely succeeded in the past. The Australian Government will make one of two choices: they will ignore the National Dialogue agreement and the commitment in the National Disability Strategy, or they will provide for access to housing within the National Construction Code.

    The responsibility for action will fall on those most affected, people who are marginalised and made more vulnerable by poor housing design. This paper outlines the activities of these groups to date, who have aligned with the goal of inclusive housing, who has impeded action, and what are opportunities for change and the likely outcomes in the next five years.

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