Housing is a fundamental human need, and greatly influences people’s quality of life. Housing with livable and accessible design is crucial for meeting the needs of all Australians, with mobility impairments, including people with disability and older people. 

On 30 April 2021, a majority of Building Ministers agreed to support the inclusion of the Livable Housing Design Guidelines Silver Standard in the 2022 National Construction Code. This means all new dwellings should be built with the following accessible silver standards:

  • A safe continuous and step-free path of travel from the street entrance and / or parking area to a dwelling entrance that is level.
  • At least one, level (step-free) entrance into the dwelling.
  • Internal doors and corridors that facilitate comfortable and unimpeded movement between spaces.
  • A toilet on the ground (or entry) level that provides easy access.
  • A bathroom that contains a hobless (step free) shower recess.
  • Reinforced walls around the toilet, shower and bath to support the safe installation of grab rails at a later date.
  • Stairways designed to reduce the likelihood of injury and also enable future adaptation.

 

Australian and state and territory governments need to play a major role in ensuring people can live in accessible housing through supporting and monitoring the implementation of the National Construction Code. To date, all states and territories have signed up to the silver standard, except New South Wales and Western Australia.

Both the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation (DRC) and the NDIS Independent Review made recommendations about liveable and accessible housing, to benefit all Australians, including those with disability.

What did the Disability Royal Commission and the NDIS Review recommend?

Both the Royal Commission and the NDIS Review recommended increasing the supply of livable and accessible housing, including:

  • All states and territories immediately adopt the mandatory Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) Livable Housing Design Silver Standard for all new dwellings.
  • The states that have yet to adopt the standards (New South Wales and Western Australia), immediately sign up to the NCC Liveable Housing Design Silver Standards.
  • States and territories develop a plan for the full implementation of the Silver standard, including timeframes and outcomes measures.
  • Adopting the voluntary ABCB Livable Housing Design Gold Standard for all new social housing construction.

Why does this matter?

  • All Australians at some point in their lives may need accessible housing.
  • Nearly 3 million Australians currently live with a mobility limitation, and by 2060 it is estimated that this number will grow to 5.75 million due to a rapidly ageing population.
  • The vast majority of people with disability aged under 65 (around 99 per cent) live in private dwellings. 
  • More than one third (36 per cent or 145,300) of households in social housing (public housing, community housing, and state owned and managed Indigenous housing) included a person with a disability.

What next

Now is the time for the New South Wales and Western Australian Governments to commit to the Livable Housing Design Standard mandated in the National Construction Code.

 


  1. Disability Royal Commission, 2023, Recommendation 7.35,  Increase the availability and supply of accessible and adaptive housing for people with disability through the National Construction Code, NDIS Review, 2023, Recommendation 9, NDIS Review, Deliver a diverse and innovative range of inclusive housing and living supports Action 9.11 All Australian governments should agree and publish a targeted action plan for housing under Australia’s Disability Strategy.  
  2. NDIS Review, 2023 Recommendation 9, Action 9.11, Implementation Detail  
  3. Disability Royal Commission, Recommendation 7.35, a).  
  4. Disability Royal Commission, 2023, Recommendation 7.35, b), NDIS Review, 2023 Recommendation 9, Action 9.11  
  5. CIE (2021). Proposal to include minimum accessibility standards for housing in the National Construction Code: Decision regulation impact statement. Centre for International Economics. https://www.abcb.gov.au/resource/regulation-impact-statements/proposal-include-minimum-accessibility-standards-housing-ncc  
  6. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, People with disability in Australia 2022, catalogue number DIS 72, 2022, p 206.
  7. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Housing assistance in Australia, July 2023