Atlanta Journal Constitution
 
From: Mark_Johnson@shepherd.org  (Mark Johnson)
 

User-friendly houses not for disabled only
Younger buyers want more ease as they get older


Beth Warren – Staff


Wednesday, January 1, 2003
A new kind of home is taking shape across Georgia.
It looks similar to traditional homes but has subtle changes --- wider
doors, an entrance without steps, and at least one bathroom and bedroom on
the main level.
A growing number of home builders are voluntarily joining a statewide
initiative intended to address the needs of residents who rely on
wheelchairs or walkers, said Ed Phillips, executive vice president of the
Home Builders Association of Georgia. The modified design, dubbed an
EasyLiving Home, also is drawing attention from home buyers who aren't
disabled.
"We're getting inquiries from all over the country," Phillips said.
Phillips is scheduled to make a presentation next month in Las Vegas on
the program at a national convention for home builders.
Decatur resident Eleanor Smith, who uses a wheelchair, said the initiative
marked the first alliance between home builders and advocates for people
with disabilities. Smith pushed for the EasyLiving Home Coalition, which
gave its first seal of approval to a new Snellville subdivision that
finished its first homes earlier this year.
EasyLiving homes from Hahira to Alpharetta have followed, Phillips said.
They range from 1,200-square-foot starter homes to ones with more than
4,500 square feet, he said.
More than 100 EasyLiving homes are under construction in Acworth and
Woodstock, and building on a Savannah subdivision is slated to begin next
year, said Bonnie Bonham, EasyLiving's program director.
By the end of the year, nearly 600 homes built, under construction or in
the planning stages will meet EasyLiving requirements, said Eric Jacobson,
executive director of the Governor's Council on Developmental
Disabilities.
Younger home buyers like having homes their aging parents can visit with
ease, and baby boomers are concerned about homes they can age in, Phillips
said.
Rep. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), a coalition member, said parents pushing
strollers or lugging kids and groceries can benefit from an entrance
without steps, and wider doors make it easier for anyone to move
furniture.
"It's convenient regardless of your circumstances," the congressman said.
"This has the potential to be the most sought-after seal in home
building."
Earl Gray grew tired of having to turn sideways to get his walker through
the doors of his Centerville home. He and his wife, Joanne, estimate it
would have cost more than $30,000 to renovate their previous home and
instead moved to an EasyLiving Home subdivision in Snellville in April.
"It's just fabulous," he said. "I've got plenty of room to turn around.
I'm back mobile again."
The couple's new salmon-colored brick house is the first house in Georgia
built through the EasyLiving Home program, said Bill Brown, a spokesman
for AARP Georgia and a member of the EasyLiving coalition.
It costs $300 or less to make the adjustments upfront, said Snellville
builder Roy Wendt, who built the Grays' Woodberry subdivision.
Gray's neighbor, Rhonda Buckley, said she was lured to the subdivision
this spring because of the security wall, gate, hardwood floors and other
amenities.
She isn't disabled and initially didn't notice the wider shower and
hallway doors or the higher bathroom sink countertops. Now she considers
them a plus.
Her parents moved into a nearby EasyLiving home in October.
"We're not disabled, but you never know what's ahead of you," said her
father, Dick Buckley.