Vancouver Council Considering Bylaw Changes- Request for Speakers

The BCCPD has received the following notice from Jill Weiss, Chair of the City of Vancouver’s Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee:

Vancouver City Council Considering Bylaw Changes that Will Have Very Important Impact for People with Disabilities and Seniors

Tuesday September 24 and Wednesday September 25

From the City of Vancouver Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee and the City of Vancouver Seniors Advisory Committee

Vancouver City Council will consider bylaw changes to make all new housing adaptable and minimally accessible on Tuesday, September 24, at 9:30am. They may listen to speakers on the next day, Wednesday, September 25, at 9:30am.

If you are able, please ask to speak to this historic motion by emailing or by calling Terri Burke 871-6399 or Laura Kazakoff 871-6353.

We’ve attached the full staff report recommending adaptable housing changes to the Vancouver housing bylaw and it is also on the city’s website Please note that the report also recommends other changes not related to accessibility.

The pages describing the adaptable provisions are on pages 9-11, 15, 17, & 23-25.

Background information:

The City of Vancouver Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee and the Seniors Advisory Committee have been working for over two years on this bylaw change with city staff. We believe this to be an excellent bylaw that includes many basic accessibility features:

1. wider doors, stairs & halls;
2. reachable light switches and bath controls;
3. bathroom on the main floor that a person can get in or out of if using a wheelchair or walker.

The bylaw also includes features that will make possible to adapt the dwelling later at little cost:

1. reinforcement in bathroom walls so that grab bars can be installed later
2. stairs wide enough for future stair lifts;
3. lower drain pipes so kitchen & bathroom counters can be lowered;
4. bathrooms that can easily be adapted for a barrier free shower.

The cost of these measures is minimal – $685 maximum per house – the benefits and cost savings to people in the future are substantial. The bylaw will ensure that everyone can live in or easily adapt any new housing in Vancouver.

One very significant feature is missing from this proposed bylaw. It does NOT include an accessible entrance to houses, townhouses or laneway houses. In other words, you could live in the house, but you couldn’t get to or from the front door. This needs changing so that there is one stair-free accessible entrance to all new housing.

This feature is absent because there’s a different process requiring zoning changes. The Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee and the Seniors Advisory Committee decided to support the proposed bylaw, on condition that an accessible path to a house entrance is included in the recommendations to Council.

Part of this proposal does ask staff to study and report back on the feasibility of an accessible entrance. Recommendation E on page 1 states: “THAT Council direct the Director of Planning and Chief Building Official to report back in 18 months on the feasibility of mandating an accessible path of travel from the street to at least one exterior entrance of all one and two-level family houses, laneway houses, secondary suites, town houses and stacked town house type units.”

It is really important to tell Council that the lack of an accessible path is a crucial flaw, and that they should pass recommendation E to direct staff to bring back a proposal for a required accessible path promptly.

Please ask to speak and please let other people know. Getting this bylaw passed and soon thereafter a required accessible path to a house entrance, would make a huge difference to ensure that everyone, including seniors and people with disabilities, can use housing in our city.

More background:

The bylaw is designed to provide everyone with basic access and adaptability at reasonable cost – $685/house at the time of construction. Most of the features cost little or nothing, but if required later costs would be very high. For example, the costs of reinforcing the bathroom walls at the time of construction costs approximately $50, but if required later would cost about $1,000. Similarly, the cost to ensure the bathroom floor is reinforced properly for a future barrier free shower is minimal, but the cost of installing a barrier free shower in the future without that initial adaptability is $7,000-$10,000.

Other cities require adaptability that works well. For example, London England has required all newly built housing to be adaptable and minimally accessible for almost ten years. There is research on England’s adaptable Lifetime Homes Model showing that it saves money in the long run, and London has had no problems resulting from requiring basic access and adaptability.

An accessible path to an entrance does need to be added. England has required an accessible path to one entrance of all new housing for fourteen years, again with no problems. An accessible path is also required in most Scandinavian countries and in some US counties like Pima County or Bolingbrook.

Remember to ask to speak as early as you can Monday. Speaking will likely happen Wednesday.

Please feel free to pass this email along to anyone you think might be interested.

Thanks everyone and we look forward to a truly inclusive city.

Jill Weiss
Chair, City of Vancouver Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee
(604) 608-0384

Chris Morrissey
Chair, City of Vancouver Seniors Advisory Committee
(604) 877-7768