darwin tropical house
The new requirements will make house hunting easier for those with mobility issues. Image – Canva.
  • New rules mean at least one entrance door to be step free
  • Upfront inclusion of accessible features around 1% of total building costs
  • Exemptions will be made to elevated houses which are popular in the NT

The Northern Territory Government has announced it is adding accessibility provisions for residential housing and apartments under the National Construction Code 2022 to support the elderly and those with a disability.

The provisions were discussed at the latest Building Ministers Meeting where the NT Minister for Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics, Eva Lawler, voted with the majority of fellow State and Territory ministers to include these standards within the Code.

While the Territory Government said steps have been taken to improve accessibility for public housing, it acknowledges those living with a disability may have trouble finding a suitable rental or home to purchase.

“We want all Territorians to own a piece of the Territory which fits their need,” said Ms Lawler.

“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.”

Eva Lawler, Minister for Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics

Under the Liveable Housing Design Guidelines, the minimum accessibility standards include:

  • A minimum of one entrance door must be step-free
  • Internal doors and corridors must be wider; and,
  • A toilet must be located on either the ground floor (or entry level)

The popularity of elevated houses in the Top End is recognised and where appropriate “sensible exemptions” will be in place so that these houses can still be built.

Small lots and those with steep slopes will also be considered for an exemption.

The provisions will only apply to new houses and apartments – therefore existing homes will not be required to be modified.

According to the Territory Government, the up-front inclusion of these features typically only costs about 1% of the buildings total cost- far less than having to retrofit.

It is hoped by employing these standards that the elderly and those living with a disability can stay in their homes for longer.

The new provisions have broad support from key stakeholders.

“COTA NT and COTA organisational around Australia welcome this decision. Delighted that the NT Minister supported this decision,” said Sue Shearer, the CEO of the Council of Ageing.

“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,” said Peter McMillan, the Executive Officer of NT Shelter.

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