Call for accessible housing

The Accessible Housing Forum gave disability advocates the chance to share a frank exchange of views on housing with national and local politicians, as well as housing-focused organisations.

The forum, which was held in Dunedin last Thursday, was organised by Dunedin Access for All Group members Chris Ford and John Marrable.

The group hoped that the forum would help provide a focus for local housing and disability stakeholders to begin developing an Accessible Housing Action Plan for Dunedin and Otago.

The forum had been well-attended, with about 30 people involved during the day, and had given five members of the disability community the chance to share their stories, Mr Ford said.

Piotr Miezerjewski, Simon Fogarty, Johnnie Potiki, George Kerr and David King had been able to talk about their own housing stories, or share stories from others in the community.

Listening to those stories, and sharing their own thoughts, were associate housing minister Poto Williams, Green MP Jan Logie, local MPs Ingrid Leary and David Clark, Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins, Dunedin city councillors, and Life Unlimited manager Geoff Penrose.

Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero delivered a video message.

Representatives of Kainga Ora (formerly Housing NZ) and the Dunedin City Council housing team, were also on hand to hear the discussion.

The forum heard that one quarter of New Zealanders live with a disability of some sort, but that only 2% of homes were built with accessibility in mind.

Ms Williams reiterated the Government’s plans for 15% of all Kainga Ora new-builds to be built to universal design standards — which meant they could be converted to full accessibility quickly if needed.

Mr Ford welcomed this, although felt it did not answer the important question of why accessible design was not the default.

It had been pleasing to hear that if DCC made the decision to include social housing in its 10-Year Plan, it would build all of these homes to universal design standards, Mr Ford said.

"We are very hopeful that the decision will be made by the council to go ahead with building more social housing soon."

After positive discussions, it was agreed that a further forum was needed to continue the conversation, which was also pleasing, he said.

"All in all, the forum has really put the issue of accessible housing on the map."

The Access for All Group was created following the successful Access for All forum held in Dunedin in early 2018.

The group’s next meeting will be held on April 27, from 10.30am to noon, in the Dunningham Suite, fourth floor, Dunedin City Library.

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