Hundreds of Christchurch residents urgently need new homes following the city’s devastating earthquake in February.
As planning gets underway for one of the most ambitious re-development projects this country has ever seen, it’s clear this also represents a great opportunity to rebuild a city with housing stock designed to cater for the future and our changing needs.
It’s no secret that our population is aging, with the first wave of baby boomers set to hit retirement this year and by 2030, nearly a third of people aged over 65. It’s also a fact that our ageing population demands we place a greater focus on building homes accessible for all.
Yet, right now fewer than 2% of New Zealand’s houses are built to be adaptable and accessible to accommodate the needs of all Kiwis. What’s more, we are currently spending millions of dollars each year retrofitting homes so people can stay in them.
Obviously for Christchurch, timing is of the essence with new housing needed as quickly as possible for the many thousands of people who’ve lost their home. So we should seize the opportunity to build homes aligned with lifetime design principles.
Lifetime Design administers the Lifemark, a Government-supported certified trademark for homes that have been adapted or created to suit people of all ages and abilities.
A home awarded the Lifemark meets five key design principles — adaptability, accessibility, inclusivity and lifetime value.
These translate into 33 design features that cater for all needs, whether it’s a mother with a buggy, or someone in a wheelchair or using a walker.
A home accredited with the Lifemark represents good design. That means level entranceways, wider doors and hallways, accessible power points and lights, bathrooms with strengthened walls that can accommodate future handrails and a shower seat, and kitchens with enough space to move around easily.
We’re working with the Department of Building and Housing to incorporate these principles into housing construction in New Zealand.
Our goal is to have 30% of all building consents bearing the Lifemark in five years’ time.
Certainly, the task at hand for Christchurch is massive, and when you’re faced with power, water, sewerage and roading, long-term accessibility is probably not high on your list.
However, long-term planning will be crucial if we’re to avoid the pitfalls of previous generations when homes were built for their needs of the day, not the future.
That’s why the likes of adaptability and accessibility must be included on the shopping list for new homes in Christchurch.