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O.C. BUSINESS PLUS | HEARD ON THE BEAT / REAL ESTATE

Irvine Builders to Help Disabled, Older People Feel More at Home

March 22, 2001|DARYL STRICKLAND

Designers of Irvine, the nation's largest master-planned community, seemingly thought of every detail. But amid rows of two-story homes, it's clear they left something out: detached housing that can accommodate the elderly and the disabled.

Now, under a voluntary program worked out with builders, Irvine expects it will have more housing with wider doors, larger bathrooms and other features to suit those with limited mobility.

The Universal Design Program gives builders 33 options, from lever-style door handles to level entryways, that they can choose from to make new homes more accessible.

All builders constructing homes in Irvine have decided to participate in the program, which is a collaborative effort between the city, the Irvine Co. and the Orange County Building Industry Assn.

While federal and state laws have attempted to broaden access to apartment and commercial buildings for the disabled, no laws have been passed that make single-family homes more user-friendly for people with physical disabilities. Developed over the last six months, the program has drawn national attention from other cities considering similar plans.

A brochure explaining the program to prospective home buyers is helping to spread the word.

As baby boomers turn grayer, demand for more accessible single-level residences will grow. And if they are built, Irvine may be able to retain more residents and preserve its tax base in future years, Irvine Mayor Larry Agran said.

"We have to do it if we're going to be economically vibrant in the long haul," he said.

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Daryl Strickland covers real estate for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-5670 and at daryl.strickland@latimes.com.

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