Everything You Need To Know About Accessible Housing

Tuesday Feb 04th, 2020


These days it takes more than granite countertops, open concept kitchens, and modern appliances to impress homebuyers. With an aging baby-boomer population and a growing number of individuals who are disabled, more and more Canadians are seeking accessible housing. They want homes with accessible design elements such as wheelchair ramps, pocket doors, wide hallways, large barrier-free showers, floors free of level differences, wheelchair stair lifts, and roll-under sinks.

According to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, an estimated one in five Canadians (or 6.3 million) who were 15 or older had one or more disabilities that limited them in their daily activities. With an aging population, it’s projected that this number will rise over the next several years.

However as it currently stands, the majority of homes aren’t built with accessibility in mind. Certain barriers can make a house unlivable, like steps leading up to the front door, carpeting that makes it difficult to move around, and doorways that just aren’t wide enough. In fact, aging homeowners find they have to spend money on accessibility modifications in order to make their home more livable – or they have to move out altogether.

What makes a house accessible?

Mobility needs vary among individuals. What is considered accessible to one person may be an impediment to another person. Jeffrey Kerr, author of Barrier Free Real Estate: Achieving Freedom at Home, offers one of the best definitions of a barrier-free, accessible home. It is a house or condo “where anyone with a mobility challenge – for example a child in a wheelchair; an adult with vision problems, or senior with a walker – can comfortably and safely” without their movements being restricted by the home’s layout or design.

Why is demand for accessible housing growing?

There are variety factors that contribute to Canada’s growing need for accessible housing. Namely, we have an aging baby boomer population combined with a short supply of assisted living facilities and retirement homes and even shorter supply of housing that meets people’s needs. As demographics evolve, so do consumer needs, which mean there is currently a large market out there for accessible housing.

What are some examples of accessibility modifications?

There are changes that can make a home more accessible, such as new bathrooms that feature grab bars, roll-in showers,, and handheld shower faucets; lower kitchen countertops; under-sink clearance; additional turnaround space for wheelchairs; chair glides for easy access up and down the stairs; door knobs with lever handles; and driveways that are smooth and unobstructed.

Even if you don’t need these accessibility features, making some of these modifications to your home may be a great investment opportunity if you decide to sell in the future. It opens up your pool of potential buyers to include populations that need accessible housing, which is only going to grow over the years.

How does one look for accessible housing?

Work with a real estate agent to find a home that will suit your needs. Let your agent know what mobility features you are looking for and look for listings that seem like they might fit the bill. Visit the homes in person and pay attention to any issues when it comes to maneuvering the space. Keep an open mind, as there may be ways to modify the house so that it is more suitable to your needs. 

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