Two Communities Mandate 'Visitability'

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Accessibility requirements on publicly funded housing are not unheard-of — Austin, Texas; Chicago; Atlanta; and Urbana, Ill., all have such accessibility codes.

March 01, 2002

Accessibility requirements on publicly funded housing are not unheard-of — Austin, Texas; Chicago; Atlanta; and Urbana, Ill., all have such accessibility codes. In February, two communities trumped that by requiring that all new housing be “visitable.”

Naperville, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, and Pima County, Ariz., where Tucson is located, amended their building codes Feb. 5 so that all new homes must include reinforced bathroom walls for handrails, wider interior doors, lower light switches and higher electrical outlets on the first floor. Pima County went one step further by requiring one barrier-free entrance to the home.

The codes are lauded by advocacy groups that want people with disabilities to be able to visit the homes of friends and neighbors more easily. Others in the communities feel differently.

“Other than public officials and the advocacy group that brought this forward, we haven’t heard anybody who thinks this is a good idea,” says Bruce Deason, senior director of governmental affairs for the Attainable Housing Alliance, which serves home builders associations in the Chicago area. He says the new codes will cost only a few hundred dollars a house, but those costs could rise to as much as $3,000 if barrier-free en-trances are required.

Cost, however, is not really the issue. He says that mandating accessibility whether the client wants it or not infringes on the rights of the builder and the buyer.

John Bremond, president of KB Home Tucson, is not as disturbed by the Pima County rule. “We’re probably actually looking at an increased cost of $300 to $400, so it’s not terribly significant. Certainly, if it were taken to another level, it could become onerous. I’d like to not see any further escalation of these actions.”

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