Improving Building Designs for Vulnerable Territorians


The Territory Government is working towards improving the lives of Territorians who are ageing or living with disability and those who support them.

At the latest Building Ministers Meeting, the Minister for Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics voted with the majority of State and Territory Ministers to include accessibility provisions for residential housing and apartments in the National Construction Code 2022.

There are 3.8 million seniors and 4.4 million Australians with mobility-related disability and with significant growth expected in the number of Australians remaining in their homes as they age, housing should be designed to best meet the needs of all people.

While steps have been taken to improve accessibility features for public housing in the Territory, finding a suitable rental home or home to purchase on the private market can be incredibly challenging for Territorians with a mobility-related disability.

The national minimum accessibility standards will include simple but crucial features based on the silver standard of the Liveable Housing Design Guidelines, such as:

  •  At least one step-free entrance door
  • Wider internal doors and corridors
  • Toilet on ground level (or entry level)

While national minimum accessibility standards will apply, we recognise the popularity of elevated houses in the Top End and this is why sensible exemptions will be in place to allow these houses to continue to be built. Exemptions will also include consideration for lots with steep slopes and small lots.

The up-front inclusion of these features will cost around one per cent of the building cost, far less than the cost to retrofit, and will help facilitate elderly Territorians and those living with disability to stay in their homes longer.

The new provisions will apply to new houses and apartments and do not require existing homes to be modified.

In agreeing to implement a regulatory solution, Ministers took into consideration the feedback from Australian Building Codes Board, industry, advocates and the lived experience of members of the community affected by the lack of accessible housing.

We are working with the Australian Building Codes Board and other jurisdictions to support implementation, including exemptions as well as appropriate transition timeframes.

Quotes from the Minister for Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics, Eva Lawler:

“We want all Territorians to own a piece of the Territory which fits their needs.

“There is an undersupply of accessible housing in Australia and the Territory. Increasing the available stock of accessible housing provides support for people with mobility limitations and those who assist them, to fully participate in the community.

“The Territory Government considered the costs and potential benefits and considers it necessary to support a regulatory approach for this matter, as the voluntary approach has not seen significant increases in accessible housing stock.”

Quotes from the CEO of the Council of the Ageing, Sue Shearer:

“COTA NT and COTA organisational around Australia welcome this decision. Delighted that the NT Minister supported this decision.”

Quotes from the Executive Officer of NT Shelter, Peter McMillan:

“Minimum accessibility standards for new builds will see more Territorians living independently in homes that are safe, secure and appropriate for their future physical needs”