On September 18, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced S. 2889, which would require residential developers receiving any form of federal assistance for new construction to include a minimum level of universal home design features in their properties. The bill would apply to all new construction projects for which the builder, seller, or buyer benefit from federal funding, tax credits, or insurance. The obligation would apply to all units available for initial occupancy after the 30-month period following the enactment of the bill as law.
Universal home design includes features that make a home accessible, navigable, and habitable for disabled individuals who cannot climb stairs and may rely on a mobility device such as a wheelchair. Senator Harkin’s bill would require all affected residences to have:
- an accessible entrance to the ground floor of the property,
- a bathroom with walls strong enough to permit installation of grab bars,
- a kitchen with easily accessible food preparation, washing, and storage areas,
- an additional room with at least 70 square feet of habitable space and no dimension measuring less than seven feet,
- sufficiently wide doorways to permit passage between these areas, and
- climate and lighting controls located at an accessible wall height.
The text of S. 2889 was not available in time for Memo. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.