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The preliminary capital city dwelling value index result for December was -0.2% (s.a.) following an upwardly revised +0.4% rise in dwelling values in November (was +0.1%). Revised regional house values for November increased from +0.3% to +0.5%. Sydney housing has been the nation’s best performer with dwelling values up 0.4% in December and by 0.7% over the quarter (s.a.).

In the generally seasonally weak month of December, the preliminary RP Data-Rismark Home Value Index result for capital city dwelling values was -0.2 per cent (s.a.). Low sales volumes in December mean that this number will likely see a more significant revision than normal.

The November result from the RP Data-Rismark index for dwellings in capital cities has revised up from +0.1 per cent (s.a.) to +0.4 per cent (s.a.) based on additional sales information. This marks the largest month-on-month improvement in Australian home values since May 2010.

The RP Data-Rismark ‘rest-of-state’ index, which covers Australia’s regional markets, has also revised up in November from +0.3 per cent to +0.5 per cent (s.a.). This is the most significant increase in regional house values since November 2010.

Over the December quarter, Australia’s capital city home values declined by -0.5 per cent (s.a.).

RP Data’s director of research Tim Lawless, said, “The December quarter was the year’s smallest quarterly decline. According to our index, capital city home values fell by -1.5 per cent (s.a.) in the March quarter, and by a further -0.8 per cent (s.a.) in each of the June and September quarters. This rate of decline had decelerated to -0.5% by the final quarter of 2011.”

NSW housing pushes ahead while other markets remain soft

In 2011, Australian capital city dwelling values experienced a capital loss of about three and a half per cent. Regional house values fared a little better, correcting by around three per cent. This compared to the 14-15 per cent decline in Australian shares. Adding in rents, the gross total return to Australian property investors was slightly less than one per cent over 2011.

Rismark’s managing director Ben Skilbeck said, “The month of December is characterised by a significant lull in activity and the preliminary index results have likely been influenced by some more volatile Melbourne and Perth estimates. We expect to get better clarity on the monthly movements as more information is reported.”

“Sydney currently has the largest volume of reported sales in December. In seasonally-adjusted terms, Sydney dwelling values rose by 0.4 per cent in the month of December. In the December quarter, Sydney dwelling values are up a total of 0.7 per cent (s.a.)” Mr Skilbeck said.

RP Data’s Tim Lawless observed that rental markets continued to strengthen in December.

“Weekly rents across the capital cities were up 1.0 per cent over the December quarter and are now 6.3 per cent higher than at the same time last year.”

“These higher rental rates combined with the slide in property values have improved investors’ yields. The average capital city dwelling is now offering a gross rental return of 4.6 per cent after a consistent trend upwards since mid-2010 when the typical capital city dwelling was yielding just 4.1 per cent. Darwin and Canberra are the highest yielding locations for property investors while Hobart, Brisbane, and Sydney provide gross yields that are better than average,” Mr Lawless said.

On the outlook for the year ahead, Rismark’s Ben Skilbeck commented, “We expect that the RBA’s interest rate cuts in the final two months of 2011 will lend further momentum to housing activity as transaction volumes pick up over February and March after the seasonally slow months of December and January. If financial market pricing for substantial additional RBA rate cuts proves accurate, we could see a stronger-than-expected bounce-back in housing conditions.”

“Housing affordability in Australia has experienced a striking improvement in recent times. While disposable household incomes on a per household basis rose by five per cent over the year to September 2011, Australian dwelling values have declined by 3.4 per cent since September 2010. As a result of the RBA’s rate cuts borrowers can now get fixed- and variable-rate home loans as low as 5.9 per cent and 6.14 per cent. Rismark’s research shows that disposable incomes per household have risen about 15 per cent further than Australian dwelling values since the end of 2003. This helps account for the decline in Rismark’s national dwelling price-to-income ratio, which is as low as its been since 2003” Mr Skilbeck said.

RP Data’s Tim Lawless added, “While global uncertainty and a stagnant local labour market could weigh on the consumer’s mindset, we are nevertheless observing improvements in monthly housing finance commitments. RP Data’s leading indicators on average selling times and vendor discounts are also starting to look healthier. There is no doubt that additional interest rate relief in 2012 would afford a very welcome cushion to the housing market.”

Brisbane vet Michael O’Donoghue has seen too many people have to give up, or put down, their pets because they could not find a rental property that welcomed animals.

“It’s very heart-breaking, people euthanising their beloved pet because they can’t find accommodation,” he said.

The People and Pets veterinarian is pushing for more pet-friendly rental properties to be made available to encourage more families to adopt animals and stop the displacement of loved family members.

According to the RSPCA, 30 per cent of pets surrendered to the organisation are from owners who cannot find adequate accommodation.

Mr O’Donoghue’s effort to publicise the need for more pet-friendly rentals, and his ideas for homes to be built to be more welcoming to cats and dogs, have been praised by the celebrity vet Katrina Warren as part of a competition calling for ways to create a pet-friendly world.

His perspective is also shared by Tenants Union of Queensland coordinator Penny Carr, who said renters struggled to find properties that allowed pets and often had to settle for homes which were unsuitable in the short term while finding a new home.

“It’s really difficult and I think it is really unfair especially for kids who are denied having a pet as a child because of these unreasonable restrictions,” she said.

The Residential Tenancies Authority states a tenant can only keep pets on a premises if their tenancy agreement states pets are allowed.

It does not allow landlords to make pet owners pay a larger bond.

Property Owners Association of Queensland president Bruce McBryde said, apart from body corporates and real estate agents warning against landlords allowing pets, owners were also wary of the cost of damage to their properties and the difficulties in recouping those costs.

He said it was difficult to get tenants to take responsibility for damage caused by pets to rental properties since the RTA allowed for no extra protection for landlords.

“Ideally if you really want to make landlords more pet friendly you need to change the regulations to allow them to take a bigger bond,” Mr McBryde said.

“At least then the landlord would have more incentive.”

Mr McBryde also suggested routine treatment for carpeted homes.

Vet pleads for landlords to allow pets

“Perhaps in the legislation it could be mandated that if you have carpet you would need to have a flea treatment before you leave the property, similar to how tenants have the carpets shampooed,” he said.

Mr O’Donoghue was supportive of the idea of mandating flea treatments when a pet owner leaves a carpeted property.

But he did not believe dogs and cats were more destructive than children or teenagers.

“Generally a normal bond should cover any sort of damage a pet could possibly do, it is only going to be a scratch on the wall or replace a bit of carpet,” he said.

“But I find in my own personal experience that young children are more destructive to houses than pets are.”

Ms Carr agreed.

“Tenants already have an obligation to restore the property to the same condition as it was when they got it except for fair wear and tear,” she said.

“If tenants don’t restore their property there can be a claim against their bond and sometimes there are orders over and above the bond for tenants to compensate.”

Ms Carr said she would love to run a test case on whether pet owners had a right to house pets on their rental property.

“I think there is an argument in saying that not allowing pets is a breach of the right to ‘quiet enjoyment of the property’,” she said.

“You have a contract which says this is your home and you can’t do anything illegal in that home, but other than that you have a right to peace and comfort and privacy in using that property.”

RSPCA spokesman Michael Beatty said the organisation urged landlords to be a lot more sympathetic to people who want to have pets.

“If you look at it logically someone who is going to take good care of their animal is going to take good care of their property,” he said.

Mr Beatty said the Companion Animal Council provided contracts for landlords and tenants to sign when entering an agreement to allow pets on to a property.

Story by Dan Nancarrow, www.domain.com.au

AUSTRALIAN housing markets displayed a generally resilient performance in 2011, reflecting the inherent security of residential real estate in this country, particularly when compared with housing markets in similar open-market economies.

The year was always set to be a period of correction for Australia’s housing markets following the unsustainable growth in house prices recorded through 2009 and 2010.

Between January 2009 and June 2010, Melbourne’s quarterly median house price rose by nearly 30 per cent, with Sydney’s up by almost 20 per cent over the same period. All other capitals also recorded big rises in house prices over those 18 months.

Housing affordability crashed by the end of 2010, with surging house prices and rising interest rates combining to send buyers into hibernation.

Australian Property Monitors data has revealed that capital city housing markets have generally performed encouragingly in 2011 despite the pressure on housing affordability generated in 2010 and a mixed economic performance in 2011.

The national median price for houses over the year to October 2011 fell by just 1 per cent compared with the previous year, with median unit prices rising by 1.2 per cent over the year. The 2011 result follows a 17 per cent rise in the national median house price over the year to October 2010 and a 12.2 per cent rise in the median unit price over the same period.

The best capital city performers were Melbourne and Sydney, where annual median house prices rose by 1 per cent. Darwin and Adelaide house prices were flat and Hobart down 1.5 per cent.

The worst performers over the year were Brisbane and Perth, where annual median house prices fell by 3.5 and 4.75 per cent respectively.

The unit market clearly outperformed the housing market over the year to October 2011, with Sydney recording median unit price growth of 2 per cent followed by Melbourne and Darwin up by 1 per cent. Brisbane and Perth were again the underperformers, with annual unit prices falling by 1.3 per cent and 3.5 per cent respectively.

Bureau of Statistics data confirms the solid performance by Australian housing markets in 2011, with the number of owner-occupier housing loans rising by 2.4 per cent over the 10 months ending October compared with the same period in 2010.

New South Wales was the best performer with an increase of 8 per cent, with Western Australia surprisingly in second place with growth in home loans of 7 per cent over the year, courtesy of a surge in the past three months – indicating perhaps growing late-year momentum in that market.

By contrast, the number of home loans approved in Queensland in the year to October fell by 8.4 per cent compared with the same period in 2010.

The nature and strength of Australian housing markets in 2011 was always to be determined by the underlying supply and demand characteristics of individual markets and the strength of national and local economies.

In addition to the affordability barriers created by the prices surge and interest rate rises of 2009 and 2010, housing markets have had to encounter unexpected headwinds in 2011. The impact of the central Queensland and Brisbane floods was not restricted to the local housing markets. National economic output was affected through reduced coal exports and the cost of the reconstruction levy. Higher prices for fruit and vegetables also affected household budgets nationally.

Australia's still raising the real estate roof

The impact of catastrophic natural disasters on the national psyche and confidence cannot be underestimated, particularly given Australia’s recent propensity for financial conservatism, especially when it comes to buying or borrowing.

The Japanese earthquake and associated tsunami in March also contributed to lower economic growth and reduced consumer confidence.

Stalling economic growth in 2011 was also a product of continued mixed performances by various industry sectors, particularly retail, manufacturing, tourism and construction. As a consequence, all capitals recorded rises in unemployment through mid-year. All these factors combined to subdue consumer capacity and confidence and consequently dampen home buying activity through 2011.

Most Australian capital city housing markets are, however, set to record growth in median prices over 2012 as the national economy gathers strength. The Australian economy is primed to expand strongly on the back of a significant resources boom with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development predicting gross domestic product will increase by 4 per cent over the year.

Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart will be the underperformers in 2012, with median house price growth of between zero and 5 per cent.

Melbourne’s balanced housing supply and demand mix offers buyers a wide choice and it remains the most tenant-friendly capital city rental market. Affordability barriers, however, remain for home buyers.

With the Victorian economy showing signs of running out of puff, particularly as the recent construction boom abates, the housing market is set to drift sideways though 2012. The possibility remains of some growth in median house prices by the end of 2012 as the impact of a strong national economy filters through.

Dr Andrew Wilson is senior economist for Australian Property Monitors.

Source: BusinessDay

www.news.domain.com.au

The Australian real estate market is experiencing a period of sluggish growth and activity, but property values are performing strongly when compared to our overseas counterparts.

The Global Property Guide’s latest survey of house prices, which uses price changes after inflation to gain a more realistic picture, reveals an uneven recovery in global housing markets during the 12 months to June 2010.

Over that period, 18 countries had house price increases and 18 countries had price declines.

Europe presented mixed results, with Finland (up 9%) defying the downward trend of decline experienced throughout Ireland, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Iceland, Russia, Croatia, Spain and Slovakia.

In the US, house prices fell 3.31% over the year, while Canadian house prices were up 1.47%.

Singapore performed best overall, with a 34% house price increase recorded between June 2009 and June 2010. House prices in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China also surged 21.4%, 11.51% and 5.78% respectively.

Strong economic growth, low interest rates and increases in foreign demand fuelled house prices in these four countries, raising fears of a property bubble. In June the International Monetary Fund warned that the booming Asian real estate markets “may pose risks to financial stability.”

In response, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and China all swiftly tightened credit supply by lowering the loan-to-value ratio. Singapore and Hong Kong have also increased land supplies, and China has increased the down payment requirement for second-home mortgages to 50%.

Australia's property markets among the best performers in the world

Closer to home, the July RP Data-Rismark Hedonic Home Value Index confirms that Australian property values are holding their own.

“In the period between end 2008 and March 2010, Australian home values rose by 16.3%,” says RP Data’s research director, Tim Lawless.

In the month of July Australian home values remained virtually unchanged, recording an increase in value of 0.1% for the month. Annually, house prices jumped 9.7% in the 12 months to June – and Lawless believes the outlook for the rest of the year remains positive.

“There is the possibility of modest gains,” he says, “if mortgage rates remain in check and economic conditions continue to improve.”

Source:www.yourmortgage.com.au

MELBOURNE could overtake Sydney as the least affordable Australian city to buy a home in if trends showing housing affordability plummeting to near-record lows continue.

A combination of interest rate rises and property price growth has seen housing affordability worsen more in Melbourne than other capital cities over the past year.

The deteriorating situation for first home buyers and young Australians was revealed in the latest Housing Industry Association affordability survey for the June quarter.

The HIA-CBA Housing Affordability Index fell 9.1 per cent over the last three months to be 32 per cent lower compared to the same period last year, showing a worsening situation nationally.

Melbourne to top Sydney as least affordable city

Affordability in regional Victoria fell by 9 per cent. In Melbourne, it dropped by 6.7 per cent, down 39.8 per cent on a year ago.

The index combines interest rates, household incomes, home prices and other factors, such as the removal of the first home buyers’ impetus to determine housing affordability.

It doesn’t give a suburb-by-suburb breakdown of the most or least affordable places in capital cities or regions.

According to property analysts RP Data, the most expensive electorate to buy a home is Wentworth in NSW. It includes Sydney’s wealthiest suburbs: Point Piper, Bellevue Hill, Vaucluse, Double Bay and Dover Heights.

On a more simple measure of affordability, the median house price of the marginal Liberal seat held by Malcolm Turnbull – which needs a swing of 3.9 per cent to change hands – is a staggering $1.65 million.

By contrast, Julia Gillard’s safe Labor seat of Lalor – held by a margin of 15.5 per cent – has a median house price of $300,000 and is the most affordable metropolitan electorate in Australia, RP Data analyst Tim Lawless said.

It includes the suburbs of Laverton, Point Cook, Werribee, Rockbank and Melton.

Neither main political party has released significant policies addressing home affordability or high house prices, despite the federal election being two days away.

“There has been a dire lack of commitment in this federal election campaign to address the substantial hurdles aspiring home owners face,” said HIA chief economist Harley Dale.

In Melbourne, affordability dropped year on year by 39.8 per cent. Affordability in Sydney, by contrast, dropped 33.5 per cent. ”If that trend were to persist then you would rapidly be approaching a situation where Melbourne is on a par with Sydney in terms of [least] affordability,” Mr Dale said.

Housing affordability reached a record low in March 2008 when bank interest rates were above 9 per cent. The latest score on the affordability index in Melbourne is one point above the low of 2008.

The largest falls for the June quarter were recorded in Sydney (-9.1 per cent), Regional Victoria (-9.0 per cent), Regional Tasmania (-8.8 per cent) and Adelaide (-8.7 per cent).

Story by Simon Johanson domain.com.au

Thousands of animals across the country are being abandoned every year because landlords are unwilling to rent homes to people with pets, the RSPCA says.

The RSPCA manages about 160,000 animals Australia-wide each year, and the charity’s ACT chief Michael Linke says shelters are bursting at the seams because changing living situations mean people can no longer stay with their pets.

“It’s unfair someone’s expected to surrender an animal under those circumstances,” he said.

“It’s a heartbreaking thing. I’ve sat in the room with people as they’re surrendering their animals; they don’t want to do it but their choices have been limited.

“It’s their only option because of pressure on rental accommodation, and they’ve taken that difficult decision.

“It’s heartbreaking for our staff, but then we’ve got the double whammy because we then need to find a home for that animal.”

Mr Linke says pet owners struggle trying to rent private and single-dwelling houses the most.

“We’ve been calling on the Real Estate Institute and private land-holders to loosen the ties a bit and be more forthcoming in allowing people with pets to find accommodation, because we’re finding a lot of people are surrendering animals to move into free-standing houses,” he said.

Pets abandoned as rental market heats up

Jacqui Limberger and her partner Ryan Blunden created a software application which helps find pet-friendly rentals on realestate.com and domain.com.

Their website also helps pet owners write a resume for their furry friends, to help give them a better shot of being approved by real estate agents.

“Research has show a lot of landlords and agents may not even consider letting to someone with a pet until they’ve seen its credentials and references from other landlords,” Jacqui says.

“It gives applicants another piece of evidence to say ‘My pet’s not a problem, I’m a good tenant and I take responsibility for my pet.’

“It’s about providing people with information and resources, so landlords see pet renting doesn’t have to be a problem and also to help applicants put their best foot forward.”

Inner-city kitty?

But there may be some good news for pet lovers.

The RSPCA’s Mr Linke says that these days, there’s more chance of then being approved to rent units and apartments, and a new study has found you don’t necessarily need a big back yard to own a dog or cat.

Susie Willis from the Petcare Information and Advisory Service (PIAS) says a recent study of 800 people found pets and owners who live in units are just as happy as those who have backyards.

“There are some breeds of dogs that really fit indoor living – like pugs, whippets, french bulldogs – that don’t actually like it too hot or too cold, so being indoors is ideal for them,” she said.

“Toilet training is obviously important but the reality is, most healthy adult dogs can be quite happy with two or three toilet breaks a day.”

She says there’s no reason for people who live in a small inner-city place to not have a pet, and the PIAS has put out a ‘how to’ guide to help people out.

“We’ve got tips on how to prevent people from becoming bored, exercise, how to create a pet-friendly environment,” she said.

“The whole point is, you can keep dogs without a backyard, but you do have to be careful with the way you manage the situation.

“We go through things from what to think about when choosing a dog or cat, how to find reliable sources to get them, what to think about when deciding on different breeds, and then we look at common problems and give tips and advice on how to solve issues.

“We also look at rental situations because it can be difficult to own pets in that situations.

“One of the things we’re conscious of doing is trying to make sure that people don’t get the wrong sort of pet and they don’t get a pet if they can’t give the necessary commitment to its ongoing care.”

Story By Cassie White – ABC News

 The extraordinary growth in house prices in Australia’s capital cities over the past year has resulted in the value of an average home in Melbourne rising by nearly $98,000.

In Sydney, the price increase for an average home peaked even higher, above $104,000.

House price figures for eight capital cities released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics yesterday show year-on-year growth from June 2009 of 24.3 per cent in Melbourne and 21.4 per cent in Sydney.

A 24.3 per cent rise above the median Melbourne house price of $403,000 for June 2009 equates to an annual increase of $97,929. Similarly, a 21.4 per cent rise above Sydney’s median 2009 June price of $490,000 equates to $104,860.

The figures provide welcome news for first home buyers, indicating the growth in property prices has peaked and is now declining.

Melbourne prices grew by 3.6 per cent over the June quarter compared with growth in the March quarter of 6.7 per cent.

Economists suggest property prices are likely to flatten, rather than decline significantly, and then remain stable.

”It’s still pretty incredible growth, given we have had six cash rate increases,” Nomura Australia economist Stephen Roberts said. ”That tends to rule out any relief from lower interest rates, too, for some time. The last thing this housing market needs is any stimulus from lower rates.”

 

Economist Saul Eslake from Melbourne’s Grattan Institute said the ABS figures confirmed data released last Friday that showed property prices declining in June. ”It’s consistent with all the other evidence of lower clearance rates and lower volumes,” he said. ”A lot of the heat that was in the market when interest rates were lower and when there was more government support in the form of grants has now dissipated.”

Overall, Australia’s house price growth slowed less than expected in the June quarter. Economists were predicting growth of 2 per cent but capital city house prices rose 3.1 per cent, following a revised 4.2 per cent rise in the March quarter, according to the ABS.

Economists suggest demand may continue to keep prices stable, with 200,000 new homes needed to house Australia’s growing population.

This comes despite dwelling approvals posting a surprise 3.3 per cent fall in June and the volume of new home sales also declining.

Brisbane recorded the slowest property growth rate with an 8.5 per cent increase. Canberra prices rose 19.6 per cent, Darwin 14.6 per cent, Adelaide 11.6 per cent and Hobart 10.8 per cent, the ABS data shows.

The combination of growth in house prices, a strong labour market, the push for wage increases and other inflationary factors was likely to add to the case for the Reserve Bank lifting interest rates towards the end of the year, Mr Roberts said.

House prices were also affecting other parts of the economy. Households forced to pay off large mortgages were ”scrimping and saving”, which was affecting other sectors such as retail sales, he said.

Story by Simon Johanson www.domain.com.au

EIGHT out of ten Australians are worried about a lack of infrastructure and affordable housing given the growing and ageing population, new research shows.

The nationwide polling, carried out by Galaxy, found more than 90 per cent of Australians believed both federal and state governments needed to do more as the country’s population over 65 doubles and the number of taxpayers to support them halves.

Commissioned by The Benevolent Society, the research found the vast majority of people backed calls for a high allocation of low cost or subsidised housing.

“What struck us the most about the research results is the high level of concern across all age groups – from 18-year-olds to over 50-year-olds,” said Richard Spencer, CEO of The Benevolent Society.

“It’s surprising that 90 per cent of respondents expressed concern about Australia meeting the costs associated with our ageing population, and even more in each age group agreed on the need to create more affordable housing.”

Housing worries weigh heavy

The findings supported recent studies showing elderly renters on low incomes were one of the most vulnerable groups in the housing market, said Professor Peter Phibbs, from the University of Western Sydney.

“All tiers of government need to do more to provide better housing opportunities for older Australian renters,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

“State governments can use their land use planning systems to encourage the sorts of affordable housing outcomes that would be suitable for this group.”

Mr Spencer said older Australians often resisted moving into nursing homes.

“They want more choices for late old age than the current options of staying in unsuitable houses where they risk accidents, institutionalised nursing home care, or distant retirement villages where they are cut-off from family, friends and established support networks,” he said.

The poll showed Australians believed the main consequences of the growing population were a lack of infrastructure (81 per cent), a lack of affordable accommodation for low income earners (80 per cent) and overcrowding in cities (75 per cent).

More Generation X parents are rejecting the suburban dream to raise their family closer to the city, fueling steep housing price rises.

The trading-up market is already seen as one of the strongest in Sydney’s property market, particularly among four-bedroom houses in inner-ring suburbs, according to the Australian Property Monitors economist Matthew Bell. “Most of those housing upgrades have been selling into what has been a strong first-home buyers market in previous years and the ripple effect of that is flowing upwards.”

That market has also been boosted by a lack of stock.

Gen X Drive cost of inner city

APM figures show the median price for four-bedroom houses in inner-ring suburbs has increased 12.4 per cent in the year to June (to $1,595,000), compared with only 6.3 per cent (to $520,000) for similarly sized houses in the outer ring.

Inner suburbs well stocked with four-bedroom properties showed among the best median price growth in the past year, such as Longueville (up 43.75 per cent), Lane Cove (35.3 per cent), Randwick (31.25 per cent), Queens Park (21.2 per cent), South Coogee (36.9 per cent), Haberfield (10.9 per cent) and Marrickville (19.2 per cent).

The figures reflect comments by the demographer Bernard Salt about Generation X, aged in their 30s and early 40s, forming a “critical mass” of parents choosing to remain close to the city rather than move to fringes.

“Gen X are very lifestyle driven,” research director of RP Data, Tim Lawless said. ”They tend to want to work and play in the same area … the city usually. Gen X don’t want a yard to maintain. They want a short commute, with friends and retail nearby.”

Homes will be where the easy access is, says new building code to promote mobility.

A minimalist step-free shower; a corridor wide enough for a sofa; and a front entry you don’t have to wrestle the pram up.

These features are part of a voluntary building code to be released today by the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, Bill Shorten. The code would improve a home’s value and also make life easier for Australians with mobility issues, advocates said.

An ageing population of baby boomers who dislike stairs and young parents wanting better safety for toddlers are key targets for the Liveable Housing Design, the consumer-facing brand of the code developed with the property industry.

The national convener of the advocacy group Australian Network for Universal Housing Design, Amelia Starr, said the fashionable step-free shower was already standard in homemaker magazines, while wider corridors were useful to anyone moving furniture.

US research showed 90 per cent of newly built homes would at some point have someone with a mobility issue residing there. Too many Australian homes were unable to adapt to a family’s evolving needs, let alone wheelchair use, Ms Starr said.

”We hope people will say I want that brand in my home because then it can be sold off to the widest range of people possible,” she said.

The Property Council of Australia chief executive, Peter Verwer, said: ”It makes good sense to design homes so they evolve with their users. It works as well for mums to be as it does for senior Australians.”

The new standards grew from several meetings between Mr Shorten and Therese Rein with industry groups including the Master Builders, Australian Institute of Architects, the Property Council and the Herald journalist Cynthia Banham. The last meeting was held two days before Kevin Rudd stepped down as prime minister.

The code will be launched today by Mr Shorten at a Penrith housing development that already adopts its features.

The Master Builders chief executive, Wilhelm Harnisch, said: ”Improving the safety of kitchens and other areas means people can stay longer in the home instead of going to an aged care facility.”

Story by Kirsty Needham www.smh.com.au