Doorknobs in Vancouver are set to become a relic of the past after city council recently ushered in Canada’s first adaptable housing bylaw.

As of early 2014, all new housing units built in Vancouver will require a slew of new accessibility features, including wider stairways, higher outlets and a main-floor bathroom.

But the change receiving the most attention is the banishment of doorknobs, in favour of easier-to-turn lever handles.

Some have decried the loss of doorknobs as excessive and unnecessary, but according to one Toronto-based locksmith, the handles have been on their way out the door, both in Canada and the U.S., for some time.

“A lot of the manufacturers have stopped making doorknobs because they knew this was coming,” says Jason Scheide, owner of Spadina Security.

While the slow extinction of doorknobs is throwing the industry a “curveball,” Scheide said, levers are a more sensible option for those with limited strength and movement. He points to people in wheelchairs, sufferers of arthritis -- even a person returning home with groceries.

He’s been recommending levers to clients for the past five years.

One drawback, however, is the possible extra costs such a ban will bring. Since levers require an extra spring, they tend to be at least $20 more expensive than a doorknob of similar quality, Scheide said.

“That might change, but right now in the market, levers are more expensive,” he said.

In terms of decorative value, Scheide said levers are the way to go anyway.

“Doorknobs are usually dated and ugly and we’re happy to change them,” Scheide said.

Scheide wouldn’t say which handle is easier for burglars, but noted these days, locksmiths usually recommend a deadbolt as an added layer of protection.

Jill Weiss, chair of Vancouver’s Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, said costs in general are not expected to be significant for new housing units. She dismissed talk about the doorknob debate, saying she has not heard opposition from anyone regarding the new law, including Vancouver builders.

“It’s very important because in the lifetime of a house, almost 100 per cent of houses will have someone that needs these features so it makes real sense and it’s very inexpensive to do a construction,” Weiss told CTV News Channel on Thursday.

In addition to lever handles, requirements under the new Vancouver bylaw include:

  • Wider hallways and doorways
  • Lower light switches
  • Reinforcements in bathroom walls
  • Barrier-free shower
  • Lower wastepipes under sinks
  • Higher outlets
  • Main floor bathroom
  • Wider stairways for possible installation of a stair lift