Vancouver to make accessibility for seniors, disabled a priority in new house construction

The City of Vancouver is planning a new building bylaw that, for the first time in Canada, will require all new homes to be adaptable for seniors and people with disabilities.

The city wants all new single-family, townhouse and laneway homes to meet minimum accessibility standards.

Mandatory features could include wider doors, hallways and stairs, lever handles on all doors and plumbing fixtures, and electrical receptacles higher on walls.

The city is also doing an 18-month study of the feasibility of insisting new homes have at least one exterior doorway with direct access to the ground without stairs.

The changes, if adopted by council next week, would come into effect in March 2014.

They are part of a much wider revision of the city’s building bylaw that is supposed to reduce red tape, standardize unwritten building practices already used by builders, and set more ambitious goals for fire safety, energy conservation and sustainability.

Many amendments to Vancouver’s building bylaw in recent years have been aimed at multi-unit condominium, rental and commercial buildings. But in a report going to city council next week, chief building inspector Will Johnston said it’s time new single-family homes, townhouses, secondary suites and even stacked townhouses be made adaptable for seniors and those with mobility issues. The proposed changes would include construction methods that would allow for easy and less-costly retrofitting to allow people to age in their homes.


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