The Minnesota State Council on Disability, with the aid of state Senator Julie Sabo, and in concert with a coalition of more than 40 individual disability organizations, were successful in their attempt to pass legislation in the 2001 Minnesota legislative session adopting “Visitability” requirements for new affordable housing.
The language, included in the new Jobs and Economic Development Omnibus Bill, requires that all newly constructed single-family dwellings, duplexes, triplexes and multi-level townhouses that are funded in whole or in part by the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, incorporate three basic “Visitability” design standards. They are: 1. One no-step entrance; 2. 32-inch clear doorways throughout the dwelling, and; 3. A half-bath on the main level. Waivers were provided should the no-step entrance or half-bath requirements reduce affordability of the housing for the targeted population.
Coalition members joining in support of the passage of the Visitability language include the Minnesota Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities, the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living, the Minneapolis Advisory Committee on People with Disabilities, the Saint Paul Advisory Committee on People with Disabilities, the Alexandria Area Council on Disability and the Minnesota Senior Federation.
Eleanor Smith, founder of Concrete Change and creator of the Visitability campaign noted that; “Visitability not only allows neighbors and friends to visit one another, it allows older and disabled individuals to stay in their homes longer and provides a broader housing market for this population.”
Diane Hovey, a supporter of the Visitability language and parent of a child with a disability, stated; “This is a beginning. If homes are built more accessible as a matter of course, the children of tomorrow will have a greater opportunity to play and grow together. Children of all abilities will learn from one another.”
The state’s focus, for some time, has been on the affordable housing shortage. Visitability emphasizes the need to include the shortage of affordable/accessible housing.
Minnesota now joins Texas, Georgia and Vermont that have Visitability language in place.