Canadian Contractor

Brynna Leslie   

Accessible renovations and construction become law in Vancouver

Canadian Contractor Permits & Legal accessibility aging in place seniors universal design principles

**Photo: Infiniti Renovations, Ottawa**

Vancouver City Council has passed a bylaw that will ensure all new housing construction is adaptable for seniors and people with disabilities.

Houses that undergo major renovations in Vancouver will also have to meet the accessibility standards of the new bylaw.

Mandatory features include wider doors, hallways and stairs, and lever handles on all doors and plumbing fixtures, according to a summary of the bylaw published in the Vancouver Sun in September.


While some homebuilders have expressed concern that the laws will lead to higher costs — and they will — others suggest Vancouver is merely responding to the new reality of an aging population. But it’s a growing trend to recognize that accessible housing is not just for the elderly.

Read Seven design principles when renovating for the aged

Spinal Cord Injury (SPI) BC, for one, congratulated the city on being forward-thinking in its policies, not just for thinking about accessibility, but about adaptability of design as well.

The association outlined some of the new regulatory requirements for renovations and construction, which become law in March 2014:

“Once the bylaw changes take effect, all new housing (including single family dwellings, new apartments/condos, and multiple unit buildings) will have a barrier-free shower or an adaptable shower, wider doors/stairs/halls, lower light switches, higher outlets, a three-piece bathroom on the main floor with room for a person in a wheelchair to get in/close the door/use the toilet & sink/& get out, lower drainpipes under sinks so counters can easily be lowered, reinforcement in the bathroom walls, outlets for future stair glides,” writes Chris McBride, executive director of SPI.

“Multiple unit buildings will also be required to have better signage for persons who are blind or have partial sight, power door openers and other accessibility-related considerations.”

It’s very likely we’ll see similar bylaws considered in other Canadian cities. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, for example, has made the creation of a senior-friendly city a personal priority. Ottawa received an influx of $500,000 from the province following a seniors summit and audit report which looked at ways to improve infrastructure and services for seniors in the city.

Read Aging in place a new buzzword for accessibility renos 


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