COUNTY OF SIMCOE
ITEM FOR: ACCESSIBILITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE
SECTION: Matters for Consideration
ITEM NO. ACC 09-016
MEETING DATE: November 2, 2009
SUBJECT: Initial Proposed Accessible Built Environment Standards for Simcoe
County Housing Corporation
THAT Item ACC 09-016 regarding the Initial Proposed Accessible Built Environment Standards
with respect to Simcoe County Housing Corporation be received for information.
In 2005, Ontario passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, becoming the
first jurisdiction in Canada to commit to breaking down barriers through mandatory standards.
These accessibility standards are the rules that businesses and organizations in Ontario will have
to follow to identify, prevent and remove barriers for people with disabilities.
The Initial Proposed Accessible Built Environment Standards was made available to the public
for comment on July 14, 2009. Its main focus is accessibility standards related to the
environment, including buildings and other structures.
Item ACC09-011 provided recommendations to the Performance Management Committee on the
Initial Proposed Accessible Built Environment Standards. The Accessibility Committee
subsequently requested staff provide further information with respect to the potential cost impact
for County owned social housing properties.
Scope of the Assessment
The requirements of the legislation were clear around the intent to make Ontario barrier free for
persons with disabilities. The Initial Proposed Accessible Built Environment Standards will
require significant retrofits to the buildings, single family units and townhouse complexes owned
by Simcoe County Housing Corporation. While the costs related to some retrofits can be roughly
determined for the physical work based on previous renovations to the buildings, it is much more
difficult to determine related soft costs to the retrofit construction. These costs could include
engineering fees, consultants, permits, changes to site plans and possible municipal bylaw
applications for new additions and alterations of existing structures. This report will only deal
with hard cost estimates as the above soft costs would be site specific and require a much more in
depth and extensive study.
November 2, 2009 Accessibility Advisory Committee ACC 09-016 Page 2
Current Building Construction and Conditions Related to Ontario Disabilities Act
The Simcoe County Housing Corporation owns 1,235 rental units within 239 buildings
throughout Simcoe County. These buildings consist of 26 apartment buildings, townhouse
complexes and single and semi-detached houses. The newest of the properties was completed in
1981 with the majority of the properties built in the 1960’s and 1970’s, prior to disability
legislation related to construction. As a result, each of these buildings would require significant
changes to comply with the recommended legislative changes.
Simcoe County Housing Corporation’s portfolio for the purposes of this report can be broken
down into two types of similarly constructed buildings, apartments being the first and townhouses
and single homes being the other. The adjustments to these 2 types of housing can vary widely
due to common space, age, design and construction.
Many of the apartment buildings have already been retrofitted with a number of items that would
assist in meeting the requirements of the legislation. Apartment buildings currently have
accessible front door access with ramps, level entrances and automatic door openers. In addition,
units currently undergoing washroom renovations are having grab bars installed in the shower/tub
areas, hand held showers and raised toilets. Lighting levels in most buildings have also been
upgraded as well. Some buildings with sufficient space have had hand rails installed in the
Despite the above retrofits it is important to note that none of the County’s owned social housing
buildings would be close to complying with the newly proposed standards. In order to meet the
standards, Simcoe County Housing Corporation would need elevators or lifts installed to allow
access to upper floors in 25 of our 26 apartment buildings. In many buildings some units would
have to be totally removed to allow installations as the existing structures do not have space to
install elevators and/or lifts. Recently staff investigated the potential to add a lift in our existing
building in Bradford and found that the existing stairways did not have sufficient space for proper
lifts due to the width and head space. In addition to elevators/lifts, doorways would need to be
widened, washrooms enlarged as well as kitchens totally renovated to meet legislated space
requirements. In most cases due to original construction, this would require eliminating the
bedroom in the units, removal of interior walls and reconstruction/design of the full unit.
Townhouses and single family homes will require similar retrofitting such as lifts, removal of
rooms to accommodate the suggested turning radius in washrooms etc. Again, as with the
apartments, kitchens may need to be redesigned to allow the proper turning radius and access to
cupboards and sinks. In many cases, the renovations would significantly reduce main floor living
space and likely removal of a bedroom to allow for larger bathrooms and other accessibility
design changes. Further, most of the townhouses and single homes would not meet the
requirements for accessible entry. The addition of ramps in and out of a home may not be
possible due to design limitation such as the location of the main entry to the street and other
November 2, 2009 Accessibility Advisory Committee ACC 09-016 Page 3
Time Frames for Compliance
If the Standard becomes the law in Ontario, businesses and organizations in the Province will
have to use the standard to identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility in built
environments. The committee is proposing the following deadlines for businesses and
organizations, if the standard becomes the law:
New construction in Ontario would have to comply with the Standard within 12 months
of it becoming the law.
Extensive renovations and changes in the use of a building or a space would have to
comply with the standard within 12 to 36 months of it becoming the law.
Buildings built before the Standard became law would have a longer time to comply:
from 5 to 13 years after it is the law. Publicly funded buildings (e.g., hospitals) would be
among the first to have to comply.
As all Simcoe County Housing Corporation buildings requiring retrofits would fall into the final
category above, it is likely the Simcoe County Housing Corporation properties would fall into 5-
13 year range requirement to comply with legislative changes.
Approaches to Legislative Requirements Without Structural Changes
A number of compliance requirements may be achieved without major structural changes to the
buildings. While not structural in nature, these changes will still require a significant investment
in the capital expenditures in each building. The following items are achievable without
Communication elements and facilities are all the devices and equipment that help
people get information. The technical requirements cover signage, information/visual
display systems, way finding, public address systems, public telephones, exhibition and
display systems, emergency systems and security systems.
Having accessible plumbing elements and facilities, these include public washrooms,
washroom accessories, water closets, common area kitchens. It is worth noting that some
of the social housing apartment buildings may require structural retrofitting to meet the
standard with respect to the provision of accessible public washrooms.
Other items include distinguishing markings for steps, elevator retrofits, ramps in some
locations for the townhouse/single and semi detached homes, furniture layout in buildings.
In order to fully comply with the proposed legislative changes, it is anticipated that most of the
properties owned by the County will require significant redesign of the current living space. This
could very likely result in a reduction of the number of social housing units and/ or bedrooms.
The removal of any units would cause the County of Simcoe to fall below the mandated service
November 2, 2009 Accessibility Advisory Committee ACC 09-016 Page 4
level standards as set out in the Social Housing Reform Act. This in turn would require that the
County replace any lost units through new rental agreements or new development of subsidized
housing units at additional significant costs.
At this time, some cost estimates can be made based on current experience with retrofitting of
units that are not structural in nature. The retrofitting of washrooms is typically in the range of
$4,000 per unit. This price does not include changing the bathroom size by moving walls where
possible. Kitchens in all units would require similar treatment again at a cost of $3,000 to $5,000
per unit depending on design. Chair lifts, if they can be installed, cost approximately $9,000 per
lift. The design of the buildings would likely require multiple lifts per building due to narrow
stairwells and limited space. In townhouse sites, if the property design allows for proper slopes
for ramps, a typical cost would be approximately $3,500. In houses that have limited space the
cost would be greatly increased as a series of ramps may be required. Again the figures noted
above are hard cost estimates and would be on a per unit or building basis.
In a report written by the IBI Group titled Estimated Cost Impacts of Initial Proposed Accessible
Built Environmental Standard, they stated that even the group of low cost accessibility
requirements including items such as lighting level changes and interior signage, could add about
45% - 100% to the usual annual investments in capital repairs and replacements, over 5 years to
13 years. The Simcoe County Housing Corporation currently spends just under $1.4 million
dollars in capital work annually. Using estimates from the IBI Group’s report and factoring in the
age of the buildings it is likely that the County of Simcoe would require capital funding between
$2,030,000 ( 45% increase) to $2,800,000 ( 100% increase) annually.
It is however worth noting that due to the age and space limitations associated with the
current social housing stock, the cost for full compliance may be far greater than those
estimates provided by the cost consultant report. Structural changes such as installing
fitting lifts/elevators, knocking out walls, expanding buildings, removal of units and new
construction to replace lost units to meet service level standards are unique to our social
housing properties business. Further investigation may demonstrate that retrofitting of
existing social housing properties to meet the proposed standards is less cost effective than
the demolition and construction of new buildings and houses.
SCHEDULES: There are no schedules attached to this Item.
PREPARED BY: Terry McErlean, Public Housing Manager
Cathy Kytayko, Director, Social Housing October 19, 2009
Terry Talon, General Manager, Social Services October 21, 2009
Craig Elliott, General Manager of Finance and Administration October 27, 2009
Mark Aitken, Chief Administrative Officer October 27, 2009