That the House recognize the importance that Visitability can have for Canadians of all ages and abilities, and particularly persons with a physical disability, aging individuals, seniors and their families, in Canada, by: (a) emphasizing the efforts of companies, contractors and builders who are already applying the principles of Visitability in their new constructions; (b) encouraging the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities to address the topic of Visitability in the accessibility legislation to be introduced in the House; and (c) inviting the federal government to address the subject of Visitability with its provincial and territorial partners in upcoming Federal, Provincial and Territorial discussions.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today in the first hour of debate on my Motion No. 157 on visitability. It is the first time the term “visitability” has been used in the House of Commons, but the visitable housing, or visitability movement, began in the U.S. in the early 1980s. It is the concept of designing and building homes with basic accessibility. Visitability homes provide easy, independent access on main levels for all ages and abilities. Visitable houses also offer convenient, age-friendly homes for residents and a welcoming environment for visitors of all ages.
Visitability does not mean fully accessible or universal design, and it does not apply to the upper floors or basement. Visitable housing benefits everyone: seniors, persons with a disability, parents, and children. It benefits parents manoeuvring strollers, people in the moving industry, people with temporary physical injuries, friends, family, and neighbours who have limited ability, and anyone who would like to invite a friend or family member who has a physical impediment over to their home.
Visitability increases the usability of a home over its and the homeowners' lifetimes and makes economic sense. To simplify the basic accessibility I am referring to, a visitable home has three basic accessibility features. One, it has a no-step entrance. At minimum, there is one accessible, no-step level entrance at the front, back, or side of the house, with an accessible route to the driveway. Two, it has clear passageways, wider doorways and hallways, with all doorways and halls wider, i.e., a minimum of 38 inches, so there is clear passage throughout the main floor. Three, it has a main floor visitable bathroom. The bathroom on the main floor is accessible by visitors who use mobility devices.
Motion No 157 is meant to introduce the concept of minimum accessibility measures designed to accommodate everyone, including our aging demographic, allowing individuals to stay in their homes for as long as they so desire, and to address the high population of persons with a disability in Canada, which we have seen growing especially in New Brunswick. By having this conversation, we are able to adapt our thinking patterns to better plan for the future, whether it is for our parents, our children, or ourselves. Motion No. 157 is a first step.
Increasing public awareness and understanding is a large piece of this motion. Mutual respect and understanding, combined with further education, will contribute to an inclusive society, making it vitally important to improve public understanding of visitability and minimum accessibility standards.
My interest on this issue is based initially around personal experience through family members and friends who have been affected through temporary or permanent disability and age-related health issues, which limit mobility and the ability to navigate steps and tight spaces, sometimes even in their own homes. Our approach to finding solutions must include conversations with stakeholders who work in the field of disability, seniors issues, as well as contractors and home builders, to encourage the possibility of access and small, minimum standards that can be followed to allow for this access.
Over the past several months, I have had discussions and collaborated with municipalities, residents, other MPs, contractors, national organizations, provincial organizations, seniors, a significant number of persons with a disability, and young families, leading to a growing interest in the need for change. It is evident that through those conversations, visitability is a positive step forward. I was pleased to see it included in the recently announced national housing strategy by my colleague, the .
Houses are often built without any consideration of end users with mobility issues, such as those with a disability or an aging population. Each of our individual needs change over time, and when it comes to housing and our requirements throughout the time we live in our home, they will vary as we age. Changes could be associated with pregnancy, small children, equipment, illness, aging, or disability. We may not be the only individuals affected. It could affect any member of our family or our friends.
I will quickly share a story. A mother of two living with a mobility disability moved to my riding a few years ago. After sharing a post on social media about my motion, she commented, “Thank you so much.... I dream one day of not considering home access when making friends.” Her mother then commented, “It is a matter of educating people, we never thought of accessibility until our daughter had a spinal cord injury.”
Simply being aware of the concept of visitability or minimum accessibility can adjust our thinking to allow for the potential to age in place and allow access to all in our homes. There is very little accessible or visitable housing stock available in Canada. There are many architectural barriers in homes and little adaptability to the changing needs of residents over the lifetime of a home.
Many seniors and persons who are diagnosed with a disability are forced to sell their homes, such as split-entry level homes, because they are difficult to modify and due to the high costs of modifications. Split-level entry homes are becoming increasingly unpopular for new home buyers due to the desire to age in place. Whatever form it takes, as stated by the Canadian Medical Association, a spacious suburban bungalow or urban condo, our homes are more than roofs over our heads. We invest in them with memories and emotions.
It is not surprising that a 2013 survey found that 83% of us want to age in place by remaining in our current dwelling for as long as possible. This seems like a reasonable objective. Statistics Canada has estimated that the over-65 population was numbered at just over six million in 2017 in Canada. They represent 17% of our population, according to information collected in the 2016 census, and it will be about 25% by 2036.
It is reported that one in seven Canadians is living with a disability. Statistics Canada's Canadian survey on disability in 2012 indicated at that time the most common disability type nationwide was pain, followed by flexibility or mobility. In 2012, almost 14% of the Canadian population 15 years of age or older, which is 3.8 million individuals, reporting having a disability that limits their daily activities. That is one in seven Canadians 15 years of age or older.
Although visitable housing was first introduced in consideration of people with physical disabilities, the concept is now widely accepted as a desirable home design for a wide range of residents, as cited by the American Association of Retired Persons, the Canadian Centre on Disability Studies, and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
I would be remiss if I did not also mention the key benefits to visitability cited by the Canadian Centre on Disability Studies and pointed out by Ability New Brunswick, a non-profit provincial organization that works to empower mobility and independence for New Brunswickers living with a mobility disability.
Designing a new home with visitable features promotes sustainable living, reduces environmental costs, and is more cost-effective than attempting to retrofit a home with narrow hallways and doors and an inaccessible bathroom at a later time when mobility changes. Visitable homes give the opportunity to welcome and be inclusive to guests who use a mobility device, reducing the social isolation often experienced by seniors and persons with a disability. Visitable homes help avoid the necessity of moving into an institutional setting. A house with a no-step entrance can also help reduce the number of falls and stair-related injuries by seniors, which in turn saves on long-term health care costs. Visitable houses can be aesthetically pleasing and marketable to home buyers. A visitable house design can also be useful for residents who have temporary difficulty in walking, for example, due to a broken leg or ankle, something which I have experienced personally over the past couple of years.
When visitable features are planned from the onset, costs can be negligible. Retrofits of conventional homes to make them visitable cost significantly more than making the homes visitable from the building onset.
Benefits of visitability go beyond the housing market. From an economic development standpoint, when we do not plan for the population of persons with a disability to simply come through our front door, as a business, for example, we are missing out. If we consider the statistics I mentioned, that more than six million people are living with a disability in Canada, and include their friends and families, so up to 12 million Canadians, we are looking at a huge market. This population has a large understanding of disability and its impacts on the people they love, and they represent more than a third of our population. All of these people pick cars and restaurants based on the needs of their loved ones with disabilities. This is a market we cannot ignore. By addressing the demands of persons with a disability, we are making options available to everyone.
I would like to point out how amazing our environment would be if we took the principles of visitability beyond housing and into our greater community. It makes economic sense. Seniors issues are currently at a high point. The Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Health Coalition and other advocates are pushing for a national seniors strategy, one which would include housing. This is an opportunity to support seniors, persons with a disability, and Canadians of all ages and abilities today, while we are preparing for the diverse and growing needs of our population of tomorrow.
To reference the study brought forward as a result of the motion from my colleague, the hon. member for , around a national seniors strategy, affordable and accessible housing need to go hand in hand. When we talk about affordable housing, it is imperative that it go hand in hand with accessible housing.
The federal, provincial, and territorial ministers responsible for housing recently agreed to a shared vision where “Canadians have access to housing that meets their needs and they can afford. Housing is the cornerstone of building sustainable, inclusive communities and a strong Canadian economy where we can prosper and thrive.” This inclusive community needs to ensure that our needs are met through affordable housing, but we also need to be able to get through the front door in order to have full community participation from all Canadians who contribute to a thriving economy.
I want to ensure that I emphasize the fact that visitable housing is beneficial to all, not just persons with disabilities or seniors. There are instances where a mother or a father is coming through the door with an armful of groceries, a stroller, and children. Not having to navigate steps on the way through the door, on top of everything else, allows for greater ease and less risk of potential injury. As a father of four, I can attest to that. I can think of countless times when a no-step entry could have been beneficial for my family.
Houses are built and purchased every day. Visitability is something that can become a natural and common consideration in the pre-construction phase and implemented into the design. Several communities in Canada are leaders in developing and implementing visitability policies and practices. Beecher Bay First Nation in British Columbia has developed a policy where visitability is mandatory for all residential and non-residential buildings. Vancouver requires visitable elements in its building bylaw. The City of Winnipeg has developed design standards for visitable housing, and the City of Ottawa has committed to 100% of social housing projects being completely or mostly visitable.
The first neighbourhood plan in Canada to include predominantly visitable housing is currently being developed in Manitoba. Over 1,000 single-family homes are being built with visitability features in Bridgwater, Manitoba neighbourhoods. Many of these homes have been completed and are already occupied, as cited by the Canadian Centre on Disability Studies in 2017.
The Canadian Medical Association has stated that an increasing number of builders, contractors, and others have obtained a certified aging-in-place specialist certificate. Overseen by the National Association of Home Builders in the U.S., the CAPS program has a Canadian-specific syllabus that focuses on the needs of Canadian homes and climates. This specification is useful for Canadians looking to analyze existing housing or design new housing. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation maintains an online portal of aging-in-place resources, which includes some useful links for accessible and adaptable housing and aging in place.
Canadians of all ages and abilities should have the opportunity to live and age in place in their homes. Working toward a more accessible society through considering and addressing basic minimum accessibility standards, so that Canadians have the option to build homes, grow old, live independently, and age in place as they get older, is crucial to our society. I applaud the work of companies, contractors, and builders who are already applying the principles of visitability in their new construction for Canadians who wish to plan for the future.
Our government is committed to creating ambitious federal accessibility legislation that would lead to more consistent experiences of accessibility across Canada. Visitability is a great place to start. As we work to foster an environment where Canadians of all ages and abilities can age in place, we need to ensure that the frameworks in place to support research are effective and accessible and foster collaboration. It is imperative that we learn best practices from communities already demonstrating these practices and engage with our partners in order to coordinate and collaborate in combatting today's accessibility challenges. Planning and public education are needed if we are to ensure that Canada has communities, spaces, and homes where Canadians can be as independent as possible, be active in their communities, and age in place.
As a member of Parliament in our great country, where I am proud to live and raise my children, I bring Motion No. 157 on visitability to the House as a first step toward a more accessible Canada. With this motion, my goal is clear: include these minimum standards of accessibility, known as visitability, in the anticipated federal accessibility legislation and encourage collaboration with provinces and territories to improve the possibility for Canadians of all ages and abilities to age in place. For people without a disability, seniors who experience mobility difficulties, and families requiring space, visitability makes things easier. Planning to age in place with visitability principles makes things possible for a large number of Canadians.
In closing, I would like to recognize the hard work and effort put forth by one of my team members, Courtenay Brennan, who worked tirelessly with me on this motion, and who has been a strong advocate in New Brunswick for persons with disabilities and for accessibility legislation.
Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to stand and speak to this motion today. Too often, when we search for a definition of “visitability”, it comes up as “no results found”. I think this is one of the major reasons we are discussing this matter today. Therefore, I rise to talk about Motion No. 157 and the importance of visitability.
This is a measure of a place's ease for people with disabilities: in other words, how accessible and easily visited a location can be. This is a subject that is often overlooked. I would like the House to recognize how much of an impact visitability can have on Canadians of all ages and abilities. More specifically, this motion can help Canadians with disabilities all over the country.
However, while the motion is a good start, more work needs to be done on the subject, which is why I am asking the to include visitability in the upcoming accessibility legislation. I hope to see some concrete measures put in place when that legislation finally does come out. It is legislation that we have been waiting for patiently for two and a half years.
This motion would emphasize the efforts of companies, contractors, and builders who are already ensuring that there are visitability principles in new construction. It would work to encourage those who are doing this currently, and encourage those who are not to take up the banner. We want to influence future construction projects to become more accessible. We need to set a higher standard of visitability than what we currently have, which is why we fully support Motion No. 157, as I know many members in the House do.
I would like to thank the member for for sponsoring this motion. His efforts are appreciated. I believe many other members in the House feel the same way.
This is an area that has always been and will continue to be close to my heart. I have family members who have benefited from visitability, as well as family members who have suffered due to lack of it. My mother was injured in a car accident when I was 10 years old. She was unable to walk and sustained a permanent head injury. I can tell members that I have been in places, whether visiting doctors, friends, family members, or in fact her own residence, where visitability was a major issue. It showed me how important this subject is to Canadians. I want to continue to build upon the hard work that has been put in by the member.
I believe this is something that would help many people in our country. I do not think I am alone in wanting to help Canadians. I think that everyone in the House wants to improve visitability for persons with disabilities in our country. I know that we can do better than we are doing right now.
Historically, our party has given a lot of support to Canadians living with disabilities, and I am very proud of this. I am proud that the Conservative Party helped those who needed it. One way we have supported the community of those living with disabilities is through tax credits. Our previous government introduced the home accessibility tax credit and the home renovation tax credit.
The home accessibility tax credit allowed Canadians with disabilities or those over 65 to save 15% on up to $10,000 in renovations to their residence, which is considerable for anyone. This allowed individuals to pay for walk-in bathtubs, wheel-in showers, and wheelchair ramps. It is a great benefit to any Canadian in need by significantly improving ease of access and visitability.
Next, the home renovation tax credit was introduced in 2009. One in three households took advantage of it. It saved three million Canadians an average of $700 and was certainly a huge success. It was our future plan to make this credit a permanent fixture.
These two credits helped Canadians increase visitability in their own homes. The previous Conservative government demonstrated its support for Canadians living with disabilities. We plan to continue this support. Every single Canadian has to be valued, no matter who he or she is. There is no reason why we cannot keep up this effort. We are doing so thorough this motion today, as well as through the legislation we are waiting for from the government.
This motion is not about any single party. It is certainly not about our party. It is a motion that I consider non-partisan in nature, which is why we as a House need to support it in unity. It is about how we can help Canadians live their best life through visitability.
All of us know someone who could benefit from improved visitability. It could be one's grandparents, mom, dad, or even children. It could be a neighbour, and it could be a friend. It is essential that visitability be included in the upcoming accessibility legislation.
We all have the potential to make a positive impact in our communities, and we must take up this fight now to ensure that it happens. We need to ensure that this becomes a reality, and we need to ensure that no partisanship creeps in. This is not a Conservative, Liberal, or even an NDP issue. It is the responsibility of each member of this House to ensure that action is taken. We need action.
I have faith that the new minister will look at this motion and ensure that the legislation that comes to the House reflects what the House is going to ask, which is that visitability become a core piece of any piece of legislation drafted with the accessibility act.
I, like many others, will be keeping a close eye on the upcoming accessibility legislation. We are patiently waiting to see whether visitability will be taken seriously. I hope the minister is taking this subject seriously, but if not, we will find out, hopefully very soon. Two and a half years is far too long to wait for a piece of legislation that was promised to this house immediately upon the forming of the government.
At this point, we are on our third minister for persons with disabilities. We have seen a stop and start on at least two occasions, and quite frankly, at this point, I am not sure where the legislation sits. It is unfortunate that through the issues the government has had with regard to those fulfilling this role, Canadians have not been put first and at the centre. If they were, we would not be sitting here two and a half years later with absolutely no information to move forward with.
It is important to recognize that the member's motion is coming from a government MP, someone who is sits on the government side. It shows that it is not just us on this side of the House who are patiently waiting for this legislation to come forward. It is actually members on all sides of this House who are saying that we need to act and ensure that the government is moving forward with an accessibility act, a piece of its platform, something that was promised upon the immediate forming of the government.
It is not just members of this House who are waiting patiently, and they are definitely not the most important people, either. There are Canadians from coast to coast to coast who are saying that we absolutely need to have legislation put in place. We need to recognize the difficulties persons with disabilities struggle with in society every day and do everything we can to ensure that they have the opportunity to be part of our society in a meaningful way.
I know I am probably near the end of my allotted time. I would just like to call upon the minister to stand in the House and tell us when the legislation is going to come, explain what the priorities are going to be, and respond to this motion by ensuring that visitability will be the cornerstore of what we see coming forward in the accessibility bill.
I am thankful for the opportunity to speak today. Again, I would like to thank the member for graciously bringing forth this motion to the House.
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in support of the member for 's private member's Motion No. 157, because it will help to launch an important debate that needs to take place in this chamber on the concept of visitability in housing development and our obligations to persons living with disabilities, as laid out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities when we ratified it.
I salute the Canadian Centre on Disability Studies, whose excellent work on this subject has been central to my understanding of it. Visitability, for those not familiar with the term, as my hon. colleague has explained more succinctly, is a movement to change home construction practices so that virtually all new homes would offer a few specific features that would make the home easier for people with different mobility challenges to live in and visit, hence the name.
Key features of visitable housing are one-level, no-step entrances, wider doorways and hallways, and a wheelchair-accessible bathroom on the main level. It is important to note that visitability designed homes are not fully accessible homes; they address basic needs on the main floor so that someone visiting in a wheelchair, for example, can visit.
In some cases, there are guidelines in the United States right now for a five-foot turning radius, let us say, in a washroom, but this does not address issues of full accessibility, as was mentioned. With full accessibility, for example, a bathroom would be constructed with reinforced walls around a toilet so that there could be grab bars. This is the differentiation we are making. Visitability designed homes address basic needs and encourage inclusive neighbourhoods.
Former NDP governments in Manitoba have been at the forefront of the visitability movement in Canada. Visitability is being applied to construction of all new units that receive financial assistance from Manitoba Housing, with 10% of all such new units designed to meet accessible design criteria. The Bridgwater neighbourhood, in Winnipeg, as my hon. colleague also mentioned, is one of the first communities in Canada to incorporate visitable housing as one of its key features.
The woman who launched the visitability movement is an American by the name of Eleanor Smith, and she is held in high regard in my office. Stricken with polio at age three, Eleanor has been leading the movement for disability liberation for several decades. She helped to found the organization Concrete Change, the first visitable housing advocacy group. In 1992, she wrote and helped pass an Atlanta, Georgia, ordinance, which was the first law in the United States requiring a basic level of access in certain dwellings. Since then, she has helped advocates in many locales press visitability issues, both legislative and voluntary. In 1996 she was founder of the national umbrella group the Disability Rights Action Coalition for Housing, which gives me a lot of information that is informative in my advocacy work. She was also instrumental in helping to craft the first national visitability bill. Its drafters named it in her honour: the Eleanor Smith Inclusive Home Design Act.
As for the motion being debated here today, my support comes with a few qualifications. There is no doubt in my mind as to the member's good intentions, yet the motion remains strangely insubstantial. It does not require the government to do much of anything. It emphasizes and encourages, rather than directs. It invites the government to address visitability, rather than calling on it to do so. It encourages the to address the topic of visitability in her upcoming accessibility legislation, due, we are told, to be tabled as early as June, instead of directing her to address it.
If the member intended something more substantial, he might have had his motion direct the minister to do something such as establish guidelines similar to those in Manitoba. Other governments have developed accessibility and visitable housing guidelines as well. This is certainly an area where we can do better.
At the very least, the motion debated today could direct the minister to launch a study of possible financial incentives, such as tax breaks and such, the federal government could deploy to promote visitable design elements, such as in housing construction and development in Canada. That kind of study would be within the acceptable parameters of a private member's bill, as it would not cost the government anything but would nevertheless result in something tangible. I am perplexed that the member did not take this route, particularly as he is a member of the governing party.
I am genuinely appreciative that the work of the member for is bringing this important subject for debate in the House today.
Since the government plans to bring forward ambitious accessibility legislation as early as June, I do not see why a visitability bill, such as I have referenced, could not be enfolded into an accessibility bill. The NDP position regarding an accessibility bill is that it should be nothing less than enabling legislation for Canada's commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. These obligations would fall under a Canadians with disabilities bill, and though the government has chosen the phrase “accessibility bill”, we fully expect it to fulfill the obligations we agreed to under the convention. Canada ratified this treaty in 2010, and persons living with disabilities—and we have heard that there are six million persons living with disabilities—and their families and friends, have been waiting for the government to act.
The government held lengthy consultations with Canadians between July 2016 and February 2017, and important stakeholder groups, such as the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, Barrier-Free Canada, and around 50 others, provided excellent input on what the legislation should look like. We also have existing legislation from other countries under the treaty.
For the CCD, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, the immediate priority of an accessibility bill should be investments in disability-related supports. As they have observed:
Over two million Canadian adults with disabilities, or two thirds of the disabled adult population lack one or more of the educational, workplace, aids, home modification or other supports they need. The lack of these supports results in poverty, unemployment and exclusion from workplaces, schools and communities.
Along with the NDP, the disability community has been calling for a long-term disability strategy. An excellent way for the federal government to show real leadership on disability issues would be by regularly bringing together federal, provincial, and territorial ministers of social services to ensure that the establishment of supports became an ongoing priority for joint action. As such leadership would be a massive undertaking, the government should create a single agency for all federal accessibility standards and enforcement, which, as Barrier-Free Canada has recommended, could be called the office of the accessibility commissioner.
Bringing Canada in line with these obligations will require real leadership from the federal government and a sustained and ongoing sense of national mission. This formidable but vital undertaking cannot succeed if we accept the kind of half-measures or tinkering at the edges for which the governing party is notorious.
I hope this motion can bring our government to face our real responsibilities in this House.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to address the House today during this debate on a very good motion moved by our hon. colleague from . I would like to thank him for giving us such an excellent opportunity to talk about the concept of visitability. The bill will be introduced by the end of spring and will touch on all areas under federal jurisdiction. The motion calls on the House to recognize the importance that visitability can have for Canadians of all ages and abilities, and particularly persons with a physical disability, aging individuals, seniors, and their families. It suggests three ways to do this.
First, the motion suggests emphasizing the efforts of companies, contractors, and builders who are already applying the principles of visitability in their new constructions. The motion also encourages the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities to address the topic of visitability in the accessibility legislation to be introduced in the House. Finally, Motion No. 157 invites the federal government to address the subject of visitability with its provincial and territorial partners in upcoming federal, provincial, and territorial discussions. This is a good start.
I would like to provide a few more details about what the concept of visitability really means to us. It is a simplified form of universal accessibility that advocates the construction of new visitable housing for everyone. Visitable housing ensures improved accessibility to visitors of all ability and mobility levels thanks to things like a no-step entry, wider doorways, and a main floor bathroom.
Such housing would be more convenient not only for visitors who are elderly or have a disability, but also for its residents, who will appreciate its advantages as they age and their abilities decline. Visitable housing can be beneficial for many people, such as friends, family members, parents with strollers, and visitors using mobility devices. Visitable and accessible housing can therefore have a major impact on the physical, mental, and financial well-being of seniors and people with a disability, as well as their loved ones. It can also help prevent social isolation among those individuals and help them remain active in their communities.
All stakeholders will need to be involved, including the federal government, the provinces, the territories, municipalities, social decision-makers, contractors, architects, and urban planners. One of out seven Canadians has a disability, and one-third of people aged 65 to 74 or older have mobility issues. Choosing visitability and accessibility for people with disabilities and the aging Canadian population is the way of the future. It will guarantee that everyone has the option to live and age in place.
That is why our national housing strategy is primarily intended to meet the needs of the most vulnerable groups of people. It will help us address a wide range of housing needs, including shelters, community housing, and affordable rental housing. It will give priority to the housing needs of the most vulnerable Canadians, to help overcome the systemic obstacles they face.
We are, of course, working in close collaboration with our provincial and territorial partners to carry out our strategy and establish a formal framework for the next steps. The national housing co-investment fund will provide $15.9 billion to repair existing rental housing and develop new affordable housing. The fund is expected to create up to 60,000 new homes and repair up to 240,000 existing community homes. It will also significantly improve access to a home for people with limitations or disabilities.
To qualify for this fund, renovation or construction projects will have to include fully or partially accessible housing units. We are also inviting the provinces and territories to work with us to develop a Canada housing benefit, which would be launched in 2020.
This allocation will provide support to families and people in need of housing, including people who currently live in social housing, those waiting for social housing, and those housed by the private market, but who are having a hard time making ends meet. We estimate that every eligible household will receive $2,500 on average through the Canada housing benefit. Over time, this benefit will help at least 300,000 households.
Now I would like to talk about the work the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the CMHC, has done on visitability. Over the years, the CMHC has done extensive research into visitability and developed information for builders, renovators, and consumers in order to better integrate accessibility and visitability concepts into housing designs. Many advances in our recent programs are based on the research that has been done over the past few years.
The CMHC developed Flex HousingTM, an innovative approach to home design, renovation, and construction that is able to adapt and convert affordably and that takes into account the changing lifestyle that is able to adapt and convert as a household's lifestyle and needs change. This concept can be applied to, and seamlessly integrated within, all forms of conventional housing. It applies to any kind of new housing construction from singles and duplexes to multi-unit residential buildings. It also works for renovations, thereby helping to address the challenges associated with an aging population and an aging housing stock. Flex HousingTM helps people and their families to stay in their homes longer. That is not insignificant.
Our government is committed to helping all Canadians find a place where they can feel at home. We will therefore continue to invest in the infrastructure associated with affordable housing and in housing for seniors and people with disabilities.
I want to once again thank the member for for moving Motion No. 157. This is the type of initiative that will help Canada to continue creating a fairer, more equitable, and more inclusive society for everyone.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in this House to speak to Motion No. 157 and discuss the important topic of visitibility in Canada, and the positive effects this principle can have on our communities when utilized. The concept is also of benefit to our seniors, aging individuals, as well as people of all ages and abilities. I would like to thank the member for for his work on this motion and for bringing attention to this issue on behalf of many Canadians who live with a physical disability.
Disability is a concept that has the potential to be life changing for those who face mobility issues on a daily and even temporary basis. The basic definition of visitibility is “a measure of a place's ease of access for people with disabilities”. It includes three main components: first, a no-step entrance, meaning that at least one of the entrances to a building or home is accessible, a level entrance with no stairs, and has an accessible route to the driveway; second, a clear passageway on the main floor, which often means wider doorways and halls; and, third, an accessible bathroom on the main floor that can be used by people who require mobility devices.
A large part of the visitibility movement is to have the three components included in every new home build that occurs. It is much easier to integrate design features such as wider doorways during the building phase of a property rather than doing it after the fact. I am sure that many of us here know how expensive home renovations can be. By building homes that have visitibility features included from the get-go rather than having to retrofit at a later date, the homeowner saves a lot of money and effort, among the many other benefits.
Our previous Conservative government recognized some of these hindrances and introduced the home accessibility tax credit and home renovation tax credit. It also promised in the 2015 election campaign to make the HRTC permanent. These were steps that would help disabled and all Canadians to increase the visitability of their homes. In fact, I recall my parents taking advantage of this to make their home more visitable in their senior years.
One of the main aspects that supports the principles of visitability is that people should be able to age in their homes. Here in Canada, we have an aging demographic, with over 6.1 million individuals who are over the age of 65. As we age, our mobility tends to decline, and with it our independence. By encouraging visitibility features to be included in all homes, seniors would be able to live in their residences for longer and maintain more independence than they would, if, for example, the entrance to their home had a set of stairs leading to the door.
This also has implications on the cost of our health care systems across Canada. If senior citizens are able to age in place and live at home for longer, it avoids the necessity of their moving into a long-term care home and the costs associated with that. Studies have shown that it is less costly to the health care system to keep seniors in their own homes. They are more comfortable, more likely to eat and hydrate, more likely to take medication, and their socialization is increased. Provision of home care services is more beneficial and not as expensive as institutionalization. My wife Donna has spent the last 10 years as a case manager and nurse providing these exemplary services and can attest to this personally.
Statistics also show that the leading cause of injury among seniors is from falls due to stairs. By having a no-step entrance to a home, the costs associated with these injuries is saved and health care costs are reduced. This also applies to seniors who are hospitalized. Many times, seniors are able to return home from the hospital sooner if their home has visitibility features that allow them to live their lives more independently. It is yet another way that we, as a society, can curb the costs of health care while giving our seniors the chance to stay in their residences for longer periods of time.
There is also a social benefit to be considered. One of the key components of visitibility is to allow individuals with a physical disability to visit a place knowing that their basic mobility needs will be accommodated. For seniors, this is extremely important. Studies have shown us that seniors who have a robust and fulfilling social life live longer and stay healthier than those who are isolated. Being able to have visitors or to go to a friend's house are key to maintaining social engagement, which in turn is essential to our mental health.
Having an accessible entrance to a home is much more than just an entrance; for many, it is a connection and the ability to be part of our communities in a larger sense.
One of my roles here in Ottawa is as a member of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. In my reading on visitability, I did not see veterans mentioned. However, I could not help but see how beneficial the features of visitability would be for the men and women who have served our country.
Many of our veterans live with physical disabilities. They come in a range of forms, whether that might be back issues for a fighter pilot injured when he had to punch out of a CF-18, knee problems for soldiers who have spent their career jumping off a tank, or those who have unfortunately suffered a debilitating physical injury, such as the loss of a limb, while serving in Afghanistan. I have heard many stories of how difficult it is for veterans to get their homes retrofitted to accommodate their disability once they retire from the Canadian Armed Forces. If the principles of visitability were present in all homes, our veterans would have a little more peace of mind knowing that their homes were not only accessible to them but also to their brothers and sisters in arms who would like to come and visit.
Socialization is not just important for seniors; it is at the heart of community for all Canadians, including our veterans. It allows them to maintain their feeling of self-worth and inclusion as they transition from a regimented life to one that is foreign to them, that of civilian life.
As I have stated before, visitability has wide-ranging benefits for everybody. Easy access to and within a home makes it more attractive for buyers, including those who do not have a physical disability. Families with strollers, movers with heavy equipment, people who have larger beds, and those with grocery carts all benefit from having a no-step entrance and wider doorways and halls. These features are also beneficial for those who might be dealing with a temporary mobility issue, such as a broken leg or other such injury. Almost every person in this country would benefit from having the features of visitability present in their homes at some point in their lives.
In my previous life as a chiropractor, my business partner and I made sure that the practice we built was as accessible and as visitable as possible. This included measures such as wheelchair ramps; no-step doorways; larger indoor spaces that allowed for manoeuvrability, such as wider hallways and washrooms; handrails; flooring that was not slippery but would still allow for mobility; and counters and sinks at accessible heights.
Most people would not think twice about the height of a toilet, yet it can be challenging. Motorized chairs were hardly thought of then, yet the steps taken during construction were able to accommodate most chairs today. This is progression, and it is proactive, not reactive. Even though this was 30 years ago, it was a no-brainer at the time. As health care practitioners, we understood the need to accommodate those with physical disabilities, and in my view, it is a best practice that all businesses should be using.
These people have homes and are more mobile today. Accommodating residences adds to their quality of life. There is essentially no downside to the principles and features of visitability becoming the standard to which new homes are built here in Canada.
This motion calls upon the minister to address the topic of visitability in the upcoming accessibility legislation that will be presented to Parliament, and I would like to personally encourage her to be an advocate for visitability and those who stand to benefit from it. As the deputy shadow minister for youth, sport, and persons with disabilities, I am aware that this legislation has been delayed. Therefore, I implore the minister to take timely, concrete action and get the accessibility legislation out there as soon as possible. Canadians need their government to take leadership on these issues, and I trust that visitability will be part of that legislation.
Finally, I thank the member for for bringing this important matter to the House of Commons. By working together in a positive, non-partisan way, we can effect great change for those Canadians who need it.