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Accessible and affordable housing

Policy and Information leader, Jonathan Tautari returns to talk about the importance of accessible and affordable housing and the cost of exclusion.

In recent years, the price of housing has become a real source of concern. For most of the 90’s and 00’s house prices increased faster than inflation. As a result housing ownership is declining and rents increasing. Household debt has also increased by an alarming amount.

Disabled people and their whānau face unique challenges when it comes to housing. Because of the barriers to employment, disabled people have, on average, lower incomes. Accessible houses are in short supply, especially in convenient locations. There is evidence of discrimination and prejudice towards disabled tenants.

Yet we know from our Article 19 research that house ownership can make a real difference for disabled people. In the research both Angela and Henk said that owning their own home gave them independence and more control over their lives. Henk said that owning his own home was his proudest achievement.

He also said that “I am lucky (to own a house). Most disabled people never have the chance.”

With an aging population, not only is the number of disabled people going to increase, but older disabled people are more likely to have a mobility need. Around 60% of disabled people over 65 have a mobility need verses around 43% of disabled people aged 15 to 65.

Making sure that accessible housing and infrastructure is available will ensure that everyone can continue to live, work and participate in their community. Disabled people are part of networks of whānau, friends and the wider community. They are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandmothers, grandfathers, brothers, sisters, employees, employers and volunteers.

The cost of excluding people from housing and infrastructure is very high for individuals, whānau and society. We know that some people live in community group homes and rest homes because of a lack of accessible housing. Last year the government spent $463 million on residential care for disabled people. An amount that is due to go up by around $14 million per year.

The inaccessibility of housing and infrastructure can also prevent people from getting and holding on to jobs. Last year the government spent $2 billion on supporting people on sickness and invalid benefits and  $9.5 billion was spent on superannuation.

Because housing is connected with so many aspects of a person’s life, such as health, employment, family life and education, the true cost is difficult to measure. What is certain is that over time, an investment in accessibility will be returned many times over.

In 2006, we founded Lifetime Design to promote accessible design. Unfortunately, people often neglect accessibility when building a home, only to find they need it when their or their whānau mobility needs change. Altering a home is often more expensive than building an accessible home from the start.

Accessibility also needs to be linked to affordability. With the rising demand for accessible homes, there is the risk that the limited accessible homes available will be priced out reach of many people and their whānau.

Where a home is located is another important piece of the puzzle. Living in central locations on transport routes and near services such as malls, supermarkets and other amenities ensure people can access the community. People with mobility needs are very dependent on accessible pedestrian routes and public transport.

Ensuring that housing and infrastructure is accessible and affordable is no easy task. The social and economic cost of not doing so, however, is ultimately too high.

How do you think we can ensure accessible and affordable housing is available?

4 Responses to “Accessible and affordable housing”

  1. Roger Loveless says:

    Today’s NZ Herald has its 12 Questions feature with Teena Hale Pennington, newly appointed CEO of the NZ Institute of Architecture. Her response to “Whats the answer to Auckland’s housing price bubble?” mentions affordability and also that we need more middle of the road housing options that will require some innovative funding models and design outcomes. I also believe some of the requirements imposed on new housing should be relaxed where this allows significant cost savings. For example minimum liveable areas and maximum ground coverage. Its unfortunately very obvious many persons with disabilities are excluded from newer areas merely by reason of cost, pushing them into substandard, old rental properties.

  2. K Murray says:

    A lot of different approaches are required including providing a livable income for everyone. However on a more practical level, it might be best to start at local body level. Developers usually want to get planning permission so are more receptive to ideas that will help this along. Perhaps councils could offer consent/ building fees reductions for developments that include a percentage of accessible affordable homes/ apartments. Not every development will be suitable e.g. some may be in the wrong location, or the design may be unsuitable etc, so maybe (paid) advisory committees of people with disabilities could be set up to look at each development to assess whether it would be suitable to be part of the council’s affordable/accessible scheme.

  3. Recenia Kaka says:

    I support K Murrays comment if our local councils could work together more about creating processes with a consistent level playing field that alone would make a massive difference. I also think that their needs to be a consciousness and more education with building companies around building requirements to build all homes with accessibility as the foundation.

    Bring back the trade training concept, this way people learn a trade and at the same time this could also offset the cost of a home to purchase. Just an idea for the community to work together on a meaningful project……..

  4. Susan Sherrard says:

    Thanks Jonathan for your article – accessible, affordible housing is a huge issue for disabled people. With the population of Auckland and the current housing crisis – we have an uphill battle to increase accessible housing stock. As a member of the Auckland Council’s Disability Strategic Advisory Group, I know we have talked a lot about this issue. The Council have proposed an increase in housing by building up. There are some benefits to this for disabled people as high rise living is being planned for areas that are also transport hubs and usually close to shops etc. The Council will need to ensure these are high quality buildings with robust elevators, and accessible apartments.

    Another concern regarding housing is the move away from Government funded social housing. It seems while more residential facilities are being built disabled people end up with fewer choices, longer waiting lists and expensive modification options.

    Check out “Access Your Whare” if accessible affordable housing is of interest to you. We want to gather the experiences of disabled people together inorder to lobby Councils and Government for changes. We need to work together on these issues 🙂

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