When will the NSW Government sign up to the National Construction Code silver accessibility standards?

Given the undeniable link between inaccessible housing options spurring homelessness as well as causing some women to remain trapped in abusive households, Abigail queried the Minister for Housing and Homelessness today in Parliament on when the NSW Government will FINALLY join the majority of Australian states in signing onto the National Construction Code's silver accessibility standards...

Abigail said:

My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Housing, and Minister for Homelessness. Yumi Lee, the CEO of the Older Women's Network, made the clear point yesterday at a forum in Parliament that inaccessible homes are a key driver in homelessness and of domestic abuse against women and children forced to remain in abusive households as a result of the inaccessibility of other housing options. The point was well made that signing up to the National Construction Code minimum accessibility standard is a critical part of the strategy to tackle domestic and family violence in this country. The New South Wales Government's persistent failure to sign up to the code amounts to a failure to take the domestic violence crisis seriously. When will the New South Wales Government finally follow the overwhelming majority of States in Australia, including most of the east coast States, and sign up to the National Construction Code silver accessibility standards?

The Minister for Water, Minister for Housing & Homelessness said: 

I thank the honourable member for her question. The issue of the accessibility of housing is one that I am familiar with. I have met Yumi on a number of occasions. She is an important advocate for that issue and the issues of older women in particular. To be clear, all social housing in New South Wales—housing for which I am responsible as the Minister for Housing—is delivered to the silver standard. In fact, although we are not always able to achieve it, we make every effort to ensure that housing is delivered to the gold standard. But the silver standard is the minimum for social housing in New South Wales for all of the reasons that the member has identified. People who live in social housing are often elderly or frail, or have mobility issues. Perhaps they have other disabilities. It is important to me as the Minister for Housing that the housing for which I am responsible is delivered to that standard.

The issue of whether that standard is mandated for all housing in New South Wales is not my responsibility; it is the responsibility of Minister Chanthivong as the Minister for Building and Minister for Better Regulation and Fair Trading. I do not represent him in this Chamber; Minister Sharpe does. However, with respect to the question that the member asked, which is valid and important, we can take it on notice and get clarification from him as to what his considerations are and what timing he might have in relation to that. I do not have that information to hand for all housing stock in New South Wales. But I acknowledge that the member raises a valid issue. For women who are in dangerous situations, the ability to access housing is a critical path to safety.

Sometimes it is an affordability question, sometimes it is an availability question and sometimes it is an accessibility question. In particular, elderly women or women with disabilities need to be able to access housing that allows them to live their lives with dignity—so they can get around and shower and all of those important things. It is important that we have housing available to meet those needs. I thank the member for the question and give her a commitment that all social housing meets that standard. I will come back with additional information from the relevant Minister in relation to all housing stock in New South Wales.

After the Minister deflected the answer, Abigail further asked:

I ask a supplementary question. I thank the Minister for her answer and for sharing the concerns that I raised. Will the Minister, as the Minister for Homelessness, please elaborate in particular on whether she has made representations to the Minister responsible for making the decision to lobby in favour of New South Wales finally signing on to the National Construction Code silver accessibility standards?

The Minister for Water, Minister for Housing & Homelessness said in response to this: 

I thank the member for her supplementary question. I have been engaged in whole-of-government conversations about that. As I said, I do not lead on that matter; it is led by another Minister. The processes in relation to those decisions are ongoing. The member is correct: As Minister for Homelessness, I am concerned about making sure that the gaps in the availability of housing stock that might lead someone to become homeless are addressed. This is one of those gaps, and I accept that. I have met with many advocacy groups including the Older Women's Network, the Physical Disabilities Council of NSW and other groups that have an interest in ensuring that housing is accessible. I am engaging in those conversations.

The issue of accessibility of housing came up yesterday. It is one barrier, but it is not the only barrier. Another that I am engaged with and working through is the capacity of people to have pets in rentals. That is another barrier that, as Minister for Homelessness, I recognise exists. The fact that many people cannot take their beloved pets into private rentals is a barrier that drives them into forms of homelessness or staying in violent relationships. That is the premise of the question. The member is right to draw the attention of the House to the fact that there are barriers to housing including availability, accessibility and affordability of housing stock that cause people to experience homelessness. I am engaged in a whole-of-government conversation on what we can do to ensure that those barriers are addressed. I will continue to do that on this particular issue with the relevant Minister.


Read the full transcript in Hansard here.

Join 50,429 other supporters in taking action