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A home for life – adaptable housing 19/11/2016

The need to provide appropriate housing choices to suit a diversity of people’s needs, including seniors, young families, people with reduced physical capabilities as well as work situations, is a complex task.

The need to provide appropriate housing choices to suit a diversity of people’s needs, including seniors, young families, people with reduced physical capabilities as well as work situations, is a complex task.

I have discussed previously that given our ageing population, there is a need to provide housing that will be appropriate for this growing cohort of people as they look to downsize and have the ability to age in place, remaining within their local community for as long as possible.

While a diversity of housing types is one aspect of meeting these needs, another option is the ‘adaptable house’.

When we purchase a home, sometimes it is for a short-term investment, but often it is for the long term. That means over time our needs will change and an adaptable house is designed to grow, shrink or change dependent on the needs of residents, without requiring overly costly demolition or renovations.

An adaptable house may be as simple as featuring rooms that are designed for different uses. For example, a space can be designed to be used as a bedroom, home office or living space, dependent on the resident’s needs at the time.

An adaptable house can also be designed as one large home that can be divided into two smaller homes later down the track.

One house could go from accommodating a large family with children, to empty nesters working from home, to an older couple with reduced physical capabilities.

The ability to make simple modifications, such as partition walls that are easily removed or a flexible floor plan, can increase the longevity and the value of a house considerably.

It is also important to recognise that our needs in terms of housing can change quite suddenly. While ageing in place is one aspect, an accident or illness may leave a resident with reduced physical capabilities either in the short or longer term.

An adaptable home is designed to accommodate these changes in circumstances with ramps, rails and other features either already in place or easily retrofitted.

Not only does an adaptable home offer the practical options of remaining in a home for longer, there are also the financial benefits of avoiding the costs of moving, including significant stamp duty.

Recent changes to residential design codes in WA to allow granny flats to be rented by those other than immediate family members, is an example of how government policy is slowly moving toward a more generational approach to housing and we are likely to see more of this policy approach in the future.

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