A big change to B.C.’s building code is raising concerns over the future of accessible parking in the province.
Starting Dec. 10, the province will remove the requirement for accessible parking at residential and commercial buildings from the 2018 building code, and shift the responsibility to municipalities.
The Ministry of Housing says the switch will improve accessibility, particularly at retail stores and condo and apartment buildings, by allowing local governments to set their own standards.
But Stephanie Cadieux, the Liberal MLA for Surrey-South, said municipalities don’t have the expertise to make those kinds of decisions.
“If we start to have to something different in each community it’s going to be very hard for individuals and groups to advocate for proper access when there’s no universal standard, she said.
“It’s a downloading of a responsibility that I think the province should maintain.”
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Under the previous building code, at least one accessible parking stall was generally required for every building that provided parking. The stalls were set at specific measurements and required both a level, slip-resistant surface and accessible access to the building itself.
‘We need to keep some kind of standard’
David Willows, the father of a child with disabilities, has worked to improve accessible parking in Victoria, including delivering a 53-page audit of the city’s on-street parking to city hall earlier this month. He said several municipalities across the province don’t yet have accessible parking included in their bylaws, meaning the change will only bring confusion.
Willows said he voiced his concerns to the province, and was told by the office of housing and construction standards that he should lobby the City of Victoria.
“By extension they’re telling me to lobby with 190 communities throughout the province, and as a parent of a child with disabilities and working full-time, I just don’t have time to do that.”
Willows said all governments need to do better at planning projects that have accessibility built into their frameworks, with parking a small piece of the puzzle.
“I think everyone means well, they want to the right thing when it comes to accessibility, but until you’ve actually experienced it you don’t really appreciate the importance of these standards.”
In a statement, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said the 2018 B.C. Building Code is harmonized with the National Building Code, which does not have requirements for parking spaces.
“The Local Government Act gives local governments the authority to regulate parking, which includes accessible parking. This is an authority that local governments have had for many years and many have used to establish accessible parking requirements,” reads the statement.
“In response to the concerns raised by stakeholders, and recognizing that local governments are already regulating accessibility standards, we have made changes to the code. The previous accessible parking standards are still contained within the appendices of the 2018 BC Building Code should local governments want to adopt them.”
The ministry says additional changes coming into effect in the 2018 B.C. Building Code will require new buildings to have a higher level of accessibility for people with disabilities. These changes include increased accessibility in small retail shops, common areas of condominium and apartment buildings.
More information can be found here.