The ACT has a chance to end a "vast human misery" in pushing for nationwide accessibility standards for the building industry, a leading advocate says.
Craig Wallace, head of policy at the ACT Council of Social Service, said the system of voluntary compliance had failed to achieve targets for universal design housing in Australia.
"This is a tragedy for the one in five Australians who live with a disability, but it's also poor planning and foresight given that Australia's population is ageing," Mr Wallace said.
Sustainable Building and Construction Minister Rebecca Vassarotti will next week use a meeting of her state and territory counterparts to push for national regulation to require new dwellings to meet minimum accessibility standards.
The standards would require new homes to be more accessible for people with disabilities and more adaptable if they need future modifications.
Ms Vassarotti said she was optimistic about the meeting and other building ministers understood the impact of having little accessible housing.
"I am talking to my counterparts and I think that we will have a positive conversation and I think there's certainly appetite to look at what we can do, given we know that the voluntary scheme hasn't delivered as much as we would have hoped that it did," Ms Vassarotti said on Friday.
Ms Vassarotti said the ACT had put its work on hold to create local standards to join the national debate. A commitment to local standards is in the parliamentary agreement between Labor and the Greens.
"If we don't move to a national standard, we will continue to do work in this area," she said.
Ms Vassarotti said the ACT government was committed to providing support for the local building industry when changes to the construction code were made.
Mr Wallace said national standards would end uncertainty for builders and people living with disabilities who struggled to find appropriate places to live.
Mr Wallace said a lack of suitable housing meant people were currently suffering in their own homes.
"I know people in my network who live in wheel chairs who can't get out of their front doors, who can't heat up a cup of soup on their cooktop; older people who risk slips and falls and devastating injuries that lead them to end up in nursing homes and in long-term care and support," he said.
Mr Wallace said making sure new buildings had adaptable features at the time of construction could cost 20 times less than having to retrofit and upgrade later.
Mr Wallace said the ACT had led before on the issue of universal design and could again.
"But let's have national regulation so we don't have to [lead]," he said.
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