Visitability advocates' efforts to get Colorado to adopt visitability in new homes built with public money met defeat at the hands of Gov. Bill Owens last month, and advocates are worried about a "visitability backlash."
The arch-conservative Republican governor, in his veto message, called the bill "fatally flawed because sit seeks to micromanage the
affordable housing market.... the homes would have to be
built to the accessibility specifications required in the bill, whether
the owners desired it or not."
Owens insisted that such homes would be "virtually unmarketable."
The governor's message contains a number of "serious misconceptions" about visitability, say advocates, including the erroneous belief that homes buiit with visitability features are "unmarketable" --- "this has been disproved in thousands of homes built in numerous locales," says Concrete Change's Eleanor Smith -- or that they cost more. Studies have repeatedly shown that incorporating visitabilty features into new homes costs almost nothing.
The bill would have created a three-year pilot program under which single-family housing built using Federal funds would have been required to be built with the "visitability" design features of one no-step entrance, wider doorways and one main-floor bathroom big enough for someone in a wheelchair to get in.
Owens mentioned that Habitat for Humanity, as a recipient of federal funds, would have been required to make its new homes visitable under the pilot program.
With the defeat of the Colorado bill, Smith worries that a backlash may be occurring.
Others say they see the handprint of the National Association of Homebuilders on efforts to stall visitability. The Colorado bill is a version of the federal visitability bill now in Congress -- the Inclusive Home Design Act -- and the NAHB, they say, is lobbying against the federal bill as well.
While the AARP has had good things to say in the past about visitability, they have yet to formally endorse the federal bill, despite requests from disability advocates. They say they have it "under consideration" and urge disability advocates to contact AARP and ask them to endorse the legislation.
Posted June 13, 2005.
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