Surrey city staff has been tasked to seek out incentives that will encourage land developers to incorporate more accessibility features in their housing projects.
Council approved Councillor Linda Annis’s motion to that end on Monday, Feb. 8. She noted most people know someone who uses a wheelchair, walker or cane and is in need of accessible housing.
“About one-in-five have a disability where life would be made easier with accessible or adaptive housing, and that number jumps to a third of people over age 65,” the Surrey First councillor said. “We need to build in ways that include, rather than exclude, our residents with a disability.”
Annis called on city staff to seek input from South Fraser Active Living and similar agencies toward ensuring that developers follow universal housing standards to ensure new housing is “accessible immediately, or could be easily adapted in future if needed.
“We have a growing population and we should be working to remove as many barriers as possible when it comes to accessibility,” she said. “Frankly, accessibility means freedom for thousands of our residents and I know we can do more to make our city even more accessible.”
Councillor Allison Patton supported it, saying she’s “always in favour of inclusion of all people.”
Councillor Mandeep Nagra asked staff if the city does not have bylaws in place where accessibility is not an option for builders, particularly in the case of seniors care homes or low-income projects.
“Do we have those bylaws in place already or is this something new we’re going to work out?” he asked.
Jean Lamontagne, Surrey’s general manager of planning, said the B.C. Building Code is “the guide” for the city. “However, I believe that Councillor Annis is referring to adaptable units, not accessible units so that we can easily modify those units should the need arise from an individual or a family.”
That part, he said, is a “voluntary” part of the code but the city has done a lot of work with the building industry in the past and suggested the city “bring that back” for discussion.
Councillor Laurie Guerra said she fully supported Annis’s motion and thanked her for bringing it forward.
“I think it’s exciting to look at the possibilities that staff can bring up,” she said.