Visitability Reaches the Minnesota Legislature

Under the strong and unyielding leadership of freshman legislator Senator Julie Sabo, the nationally acknowledged Visitability design standards were attached […]

Under the strong and unyielding leadership of freshman legislator Senator Julie Sabo, the nationally acknowledged

Visitability design standards were attached to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) department bill, and as of April 30th, they had reached the floor of the Senate. The Visitability language would require all newly constructed single-family dwellings, duplexes, triplexes and multi-level townhouses, funded in whole or part by MHFA, to incorporate three basic design standards. The housing would be required to have one no-step entrance, 32″ clear doorways throughout the dwelling and a « bath on the main level. The language also contains waivers related to affordability and topographical conditions. Unfortunately the Visitability language did not make it into the companion bill in the House so the ultimate fate of the Visitability language will be decided in Conference Committee.

The Visitability design and construction requirements are being considered throughout the country in an effort to address the housing needs of older and disabled Americans. Visitability is currently required in the states of Georgia and Texas, and the City of Urbana, Illinois. The State of Vermont has established partial requirements.

Providing basic access at the time of construction allows as many individuals as possible to remain in their homes after acquiring a disability. Visitability design also provides individuals with existing physical disabilities a broader housing market. It allows neighbors, friends and families to visit one another. Finally, it provides children of all physical abilities an opportunity to play and grow together. Visitability builds better homes and stronger communities.

The cost of incorporating Visitabilty access into newly constructed homes can vary depending on site, design of home and planning. In Georgia, where several hundred homes have been built with Visitabilty access, with and without basements, the average cost has generally totaled only two to three hundred dollars per site. To renovate an existing home and incorporate the very same isitability features would cost thousands of dollars. It makes sense to incorporate Visitability at the time of construction!!

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