An ordinance affecting new single-family homes in Austin was recently proposed by City Council Member Betty Dunkerley, but city officials have made a few modifications to the ordinance. Namely, they have decided to remove the requirement to have wheelchair ramps included in all new single-family homes. According to Dunkerley, however, she hopes to create a bonus or incentive program that will inspire builders to install no-step entrances or ramps in the homes. For example, builders installing these modifications may be able to receive an increased floor-to-area ratio or receive impervious cover.
“This is a growing trend in our country because our population is aging. [The plan] allows people to age in their homes,” said Dunkerley.
Other components of the proposed ordinance include making at least one first-floor entryway 32 inches wide, keeping the first-floor doors at least 30 inches wide, installing lever handle hardware on all doors on the first floor, making the maximum height of all thermostats, switches and electrical disconnects 48 inches high, and making the minimum height for electrical plugs 15 inches. The ordinance will also require installing blocking behind the toilet and bath on bathrooms on the first floor so grab bars can be easily installed.
According to Dunkerley, implementing the requirements established by the ordinance shouldn’t cost homeowners and contractors more than $200. To make these changes to a home that has already been built, on the other hand, it would cost about $2,000.
The new ordinance is expected to be put into effect on January 1, 2009. Any plans submitted before this date, however, would not be affected by the ordinance.