Lack of suitable home meant woman had to leave family

Brian Ross says his daughter had to leave Gladstone because of a lack of affordable housing for the disabled.
Brian Ross says his daughter had to leave Gladstone because of a lack of affordable housing for the disabled. Mike Richards GLA270214DISA

BRIAN Ross is a man who has been fighting tooth and nail for more than a year for less than four inches.

He's been fighting for doorways and halls in residential housing to be widened just a touch to allow for more properties to be accessible for people in wheelchairs, and says just 10cm makes a whole world of difference.

"It means a whole lot to people trying to manoeuvre in a home, but doesn't inconvenience anybody who isn't in one (wheelchair)," Mr Ross said.

He said there was a lack of suitable properties in the Gladstone area for people in wheelchairs, but thought the building of 262 new dwellings under the federally run National Rental Affordability Scheme would be an ideal chance to tackle the issue.

The houses are meant for people with lower incomes, and are pegged to a rate 20% less than the prevailing private rental market, ideal to those who have little ability to support themselves.

However, it is believed that there is no requirement for wider doorways in homes being built, which for Mr Ross smacks of a missed opportunity for increased equality.

The Department of Social Services, the Federal Government body responsible for awarding tenders for the scheme said that while contractors were encouraged to submit designs to allow more universal access, it wasn't a requirement.

Standards for the home construction were in State Government hands.

Response added 12.30pm: A spkesperson for the state Department of Housing and Public Works has confirmed that there is no specific requirement for door widths and hallway widths on the books.

Under the National Construction Code, all that is required is that a house is "constructed so that the spaces within are suitable for the intended use".

However, in the case of units, there are standards which apply to common areas leading up to the entry door of a unit.

If change were to be applied to the NCC, it would require a proposal be taken to the Australian Building Codes Board for consideration.

The department also confirmed that local councils had no role to play in enforcing a higher standard than the minimum.

Brian's taking fight up for his daughter

TO say Brian Ross was taking this fight personally would be an understatement.

While his daughter suffered an immobilising stroke six years ago, his own wife struggles with scoliosis.

His daughter suffered the stroke while living with her husband and two children in Gladstone, meaning she had a support network available to her.

However, when her husband passed away a few years later, she was left without an income, and children to support.

Brian Ross says his daughter had to leave Gladstone because of a lack of affordable housing for the disabled.
Brian Ross says his daughter had to leave Gladstone because of a lack of affordable housing for the disabled. Mike Richards GLA270214DISA

She had to sell the family home and start looking for another place.

"She can't work, and I haven't been able to find a suitable home in Gladstone that you can rent," Mr Ross said.

So 12 months ago she had to make the heart-breaking decision to move away from a town where family support was a short distance away, to Brisbane where there are more suitable properties available.

Her mother and I were a bit angry in being late in discovering the real situation with housing.

Mr Ross said his daughter, who had a bubbly disposition, had been tested by the tribulations of trying to find a place to live in a new city, a situation compounded further by the fact that her own daughter suffers from cerebral palsy.

He also said he missed his daughter immensely.

"Before her stroke we used to catch up weekly for a dinner, but of course after the stroke and her husband died she used to see us daily because she needed the emotional support, and the physical support as well," Mr Ross said.

While Mr Ross said it was heart-breaking to lose his daughter to the big city, as he started to learn that there was no actual requirement for a higher standard to be adopted, his heartbreak turned to anger.

"Her mother and I were a bit angry in being late in discovering the real situation with housing. That made us angry more than anything," Mr Ross said.

"You think a house is built to certain standards, and then you find out later that maybe they're not.''

National affordable rental scheme

  • Designed to stimulate low-income housing
  • 42 homes built in Gladstone so far
  • 262 homes due to be available by the second half of 2014

Topics:  disability access gladstone property market national rental affordability scheme wheelchair

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