The way forward
The previous chapter provides the background and key issues surrounding the
provision of suitable housing for people with disability. It also examined the
policy drivers and proposals in place to address the significant and urgent
need. This chapter identifies specific shortages and inadequacies inherent in
the current system, and outlines options and models proposed by submitters.
Improving the status quo
Many submitters proposed ways to at least improve, if not overhaul, the
existing system. Most agreed that a one-size-fits-all approach would not work,
and instead called for a diversity of housing options to be pursued.
In the context of the NDIS, there are also the difficulties presented
with specialist disability accommodation which is primarily the responsibility
of the states and territories, but it is proposed that the land and build
elements of specialist disability accommodation will be priced and funded by
the NDIA through a national framework.
Submitters agreed that substantially increasing the supply of
appropriate housing will require collaborative and innovative solutions to be
designed and implemented at all levels of government.
Responsibility, however, does not rest solely with governments:
[T]he Commonwealth can play a key role in facilitating
collaboration between all three levels of government, land developers, planners,
housing providers, disability housing providers, families, banks and
superannuation funds. There is a need for partnerships to canvas a wide range
of approaches for financing such as shared equity and social investment options
as well as the more traditional commercial return and government funded
National Disability Services (NDS) called for all governments to commit
to the following measures that would see a cohesive approach to planning,
construction, building regulation and funding for specialist disability
- Policy certainty for
investors – as establishing housing has a long lead time, investors need
clarity about relevant regulatory and funding policy.
- New partnerships –
property developers, financers, and the disability and community housing
sectors need opportunities to share knowledge and to explore ways to increase
the supply of accessible housing.
- Information –
information (such as demand data and housing availability services for people
with disability) is required to support investor and consumer decisions.
- Stimulate construction of
affordable rental housing – a national funding scheme is needed to increase
the availability of accessible and well-located community housing.
- Building regulation –
the National Construction Code should include minimum access and adaptability
standards for all new and extensively modified housing.
- Affordable housing –
eligibility criteria for affordable/social housing schemes should be reviewed
to ensure it is equitable for people with disability and their families.
- Responsive planning –
local government planning regulation should require all new housing developments
to include 10 per cent affordable housing options.
Rethinking the conversation about housing
A number of submissions drew attention to the breadth of the housing
issue. Housing for those with a disability had been the starting point of this
inquiry, though as it has progressed, it has become evident that a broader
emphasis is required.
Uniting Care Community called for 'a shift to broader social
responsibility by all players in this market', and advocated for the pursuit of
varied housing proposals in order to maximise the delivery of appropriate and
The Young People in Nursing Homes National Alliance (YPINH) called for a
fundamental shift in how we conceptualise the issue, suggesting that the
'conversation concerning housing for Australians with disability needs to be
Inadequate housing assistance, YPINH posited, is a much wider problem in
Australian society, one which affects not just people with disability but also
older Australians on the aged pension, the homeless, and people with mental
illness: '[t]he need for housing for Australians with disability is thus part
of a wider need for social housing and alternative housing finance approaches.'
This view was supported by others:
The Australian housing market is currently under such stress
that it is unable to meet the needs and aspirations of many of its citizens and
is particularly failing the most vulnerable in our society. Housing is the
foundation of a good life and is increasingly difficult to attain and maintain
even for the average income earner.
The decoupling of the concepts of housing and disability was an area YPINH
thought crucial in addressing the accommodation needs of people with disability,
and a first step in ensuring that housing ceases to be thought of as a
Australians with disability are currently not only being
limited by housing availability, but by the historic anchoring of accessible
accommodation to block funded disability services. In most jurisdictions, the
rationing of places in these services is centrally controlled by government
'vacancy management' systems that undermine the central tenets of choice and
control expounded by the NDIS.
To help achieve this aim, YPINH suggested that national building codes
need to be modified to ensure access for all people, regardless of whether they
had a disability or not. The committee agrees with this proposal.
The committee recommends that Commonwealth and state and
territory governments work with national disability peak organisations and the
Australian Building Codes Board to examine updating the Building Code of
Australia in regard to accessibility.
From YPINH's perspective of supporting young people to leave aged care
facilities, they suggested that greater consultation and engagement with the
aged care sector, as well as ensuring that wraparound services such as
healthcare were in place to support people with disability to live in their own
Furthermore, YPINH held that group home settings should not be the
default model for housing for people requiring proximal support. Rather, their
submission argued, the group home model should just be one among a number of
options to be pursued and developed.
NDS argued that the housing market has proven it cannot and will not
deliver the range of suitable (i.e. accessible and affordable) housing options
Australians with disability require. Thus the case for market intervention, NDS
submitted, needs to be widely understood:
There is a case to intervene and invest in housing markets
for people with disability to enable the best possible interface with
transport, employment and services and the best long-term outcomes. Housing is
directly connected to wellbeing and employment because ‘place’ matters. If
people live where they can get to work, access health services, transport and
education, they flourish. If they are isolated they flounder and often make
more use of expensive crisis services such as hospitals and income support.
The NDIS added that the NDIS can provide the catalyst for governments,
and indeed the entire sector, to disentangle the barriers to suitable housing
and drive tangible change.
This was echoed by the Activ Foundation.
Increasing the social housing stock
Action for More Independence and Dignity in Accommodation (AMIDA)
submitted that Australia is woefully behind other advanced economies in the
provision of social housing:
The Victorian Council of Social Services have said that in
1996 and 2008 the Australian public housing sector diminished from about 4.1%
to about 3.7% of our total housing stock. If we compare ourselves to other
countries, for instance Canada has about 6% of total housing is public, New
Zealand 7%, France 17%, the United Kingdom 20%.
The existence of the NDIS does not, AMIDA stressed, absolve governments
of responsibility for increasing the country's social housing stock, especially
as private rental and ownership remains unaffordable and sector investment in
social housing has not filled the gap.
The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) looked at a
number of options for addressing unmet need in affordable, suitable housing and
concluded that social housing will remain the only solution for many people
with disability. However, social housing, as also noted by AMIDA, is a
declining resource in Australia which will not be able to meet the current demand:
From 1998 to 2010, the number and proportion renting social housing
dropped from 5.8 per cent of households to 3.9 per cent, while waiting lists are
burgeoning (NHSC, 2013). Furthermore, like most social housing tenants, those with
disability face very constrained choices about the location, form and
management of their home. Difficulty obtaining social housing in locations with
good access to jobs, transport and, importantly, family and informal support
networks could add to the costs of the paid supports they require (Wiesel et
al., 2015a). Increasing the proportion of people with significant disability
(who are already over-represented) in social housing may have additional
negative implications for both these tenants as well as other high need
households who will face even greater difficulty accessing social housing.
AHURI concluded that additional private rental assistance for people
with disability who receive Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) may be a
cost-effective way to increase housing assistance. In saying this, AHURI
acknowledge that such assistance would be highly vulnerable to rent increases.
The committee is conscious that the conversation around disability
accommodation takes place in the broader context of the provision of affordable
and social housing more generally. The committee is also aware that the
parliament, and the Commonwealth government are in the midst of developing
proposals to be taken to stakeholders to address some of the issues surrounding
the provision of housing in Australia.
The committee recommends that accommodation for people with disability
be integral in the development of affordable and social housing policy
The group home model
The group home model can be traced back to the practice of housing
people with disability (when not being cared for by family) in residential
institutions. These were perceived to be an efficient means of caring for large
numbers of people at once, but carried unintended consequences:
The negative impact of a lifetime of institutional care on a
person's health and wellbeing were not factored into the costs of institutional
There was little support for any form of congregate care for people who
do not necessarily need or benefit from such a model. Specifically, it was
clear from submissions that the group home model, which gives residents paltry
choice in terms of where they live or who they live with, has had its time and
is no longer a desirable option:
Affordable housing should not require residents to live with
people not of their choosing simply because of the fact that they have a
disability. In our experience this can result in inappropriate mixes of
individuals in group homes, a high rate of restrictive practices and turnover,
and unsafe home environments. 
Among the housing options discussed was "supported living".
Supported living describes when a person with disability requires ongoing,
organised, publicly funded assistance, and works with an agency which is tasked
with providing whatever assistance is necessary for the person to live in an
appropriate home of their own. This model may be particularly appropriate for
people with disability who engage in problem behaviour which can be exacerbated
by living in a group home:
This [living in a group home] means that they are more often
exposed to people who anger them, stress them, or scare them. In addition, a
further vicious cycle is activated when the demands of caring for and
supervising such a group means that support workers simply try to survive to
the end of their shift. This means the needed skilled, long-term, proactive
work is not done, and just reacting to incidents is what typically happens.
This usually means that more restrictions are placed on the residents. Now, not
only are they more likely to be angry, stressed and scared, but are also
frustrated at the control that they have lost, with the result being ever more serious
The Office of the Public Advocate (OPA), which has long advocated for
the closure of congregate care facilities, called for the development of 'a
specialist disability accommodation market that fosters choice and control' and
is informed by the following principles:
Group homes should have no more than six residents so they can
properly meet the residents' individual needs.
All accommodation support needs to be personalised, planned and
flexible; provide the maximum autonomy and choice for the individual; enable
the person to maintain and develop relationships; and minimise and address
potential barriers to community participation.
All disability accommodation supports must strengthen an
individual's existing relationships, natural supports and community
Individuals should not be compelled to live in a particular
setting to gain access to support, unless ordered by a lawful authority.
Participants who live in specialist disability accommodation
including group homes and institutional setting who wish to explore options to
change their accommodation arrangements should be supported to do so.
The committee noted the OPA's pronounced concern about
recently-established, privately owned and operated disability accommodation
Despite waning support for the group home model, the committee noted
that the current proposed pricing framework for Specialist Disability
Accommodation (SDA) under the NDIS is based on the assumption that congregate
care, or group housing, will remain a feature of the NDIS model. Such an
assumption, Uniting Care Community implied, is intrinsically flawed:
Designing new strategies using old models will result in old
solutions and maintains the issue of housing for people with disability as a
‘niche’ funding problem rather than a broader human rights issue.
The emphasis on viewing housing policy through the prism of human
rights, rather than disability per se, was echoed by other submitters:
Housing is a fundamental human right and essential to the
maintenance of human dignity. Every Australian has the right to adequate, safe
and affordable housing. From a psychological perspective, adequate safe and
secure housing (tenure) provides a foundation for individuals and families to
develop a sense of identity and belonging. It is essential to both individual
and community wellbeing. By contrast, not having a stable base (or home),
denies people their fundamental human right to shelter and safety, disrupts the
connections they have with their family and communities and is associated with
a sense of social exclusion and poor mental health and wellbeing.
Evidence was provided to substantiate this view, including that on the
proven, positive relationship between appropriate housing, health and quality
of life. People who are disadvantaged in the housing market, as Australians with
disability certainly are, experience disproportionate vulnerability to the
negative health effects of inappropriate housing.
Many submitters recognised that group housing would remain an important
feature of disability accommodation. AHURI found the additional funding to be a
NDIS user cost of capital funds for specialist housing will
assist in delivering an additional supply of specialist housing for
approximately 12,000 participants (in addition to approximately 14,000 people
already housed in group homes). This is an important, however proportionally
very small contribution addressing only approximately 10% of the estimated
shortfall in affordable housing.
Young people in residential aged care
Young people with disability have a diverse range of reasons for moving
into residential aged care (RAC) and different support needs. For most, it is
not an optimal outcome or one sought out as a first choice. Instead, most have
moved into RAC because their needs were unable to be met in the wider community,
although not all have high or complex needs. Ensuring timely access to the
diverse range and level of services people with disability require would, the
committee noted, carry a range of benefits:
Improving the housing and support option in the community
will reduce the flow of young people into RAC, leading to better outcomes for
young people and lower costs for government.
Aged care providers who deliver services to younger people are, the
committee heard, keenly aware of the shortcomings of RAC where younger
residents are concerned, and are eager for housing alternatives to be made more
readily available. This would enable younger people in need of support to
receive necessary services appropriately, in their own homes, and in the wider
community. The committee also noted YPINH's submission that 'many providers are
capital ready and keen to invest in developing alternative housing options to
residential aged care for their younger residents', and that there is a greater
interaction required between the NDIS and aged care providers as a means of
addressing this challenge.
People with complex needs currently
in Residential Aged Care
People with disability who have high and complex needs often require
services to be delivered frequently and at a high intensity, by a range of
service providers, and at levels which can change unexpectedly.
Currently, housing choices for people with complex or high support needs are
very limited and usually dictated by the location of the service delivered. In
most cases services are located in hospitals or aged care homes.
Changing this situation requires 'a dedicated service development strategy for
those health services (including rehabilitation services) comprising the NDIA
and state and territory health programs.'
However, the Alliance noted decision-makers still view group home settings as the
only realistic option.
The quality of housing required
AHURI submitted that Australians with disability have long been
disadvantaged by usually only having access to substandard housing with a
limiting effect on their choice and control. In practice this means that people
with disability are frequently separated from their families and informal
support networks, as well as being segregated from the wider community.
PaRA Co-operative Limited eloquently summed up what is needed:
People with disabilities do not need luxurious accommodation
but they do have the right to live in decent accommodation, near their families
and where they work or attend Day Programs.
It is estimated that around 94 per cent of NDIS participants will not
require specialist housing.
Instead, most will need access to affordable, mainstream housing which meets
four overarching criteria:
It must be small scale and dispersed in the general community. Evidence
indicates that non-congregated, small-scale housing dispersed in the general
community is critical for the self-determination, wellbeing and social
inclusion of people with disability.
It must be adaptable or universally designed. Poor outcomes are
compounded by poor housing design that inhibits peoples' movement in their own
home. Accessible design is a fundamental aspect of increasing independence,
and, consequently, reducing reliance and costs of support. The most effective
means of achieving this would be through a legislative requirement for
non-discriminatory access standards in new housing.
It must be secure. Security in this context relates to security of
occupancy and the stability of existing housing arrangements. Research
demonstrates security of housing is associated with important aspects of human
functioning: family functioning, social participation and health. Given the
high underlying risk of homelessness, as well as often limited social networks,
security of housing is of vital importance to people with disability. Brightwater
Care Group called on the government to ensure that, if not all, then at least a
percentage of affordable, adaptable housing is included in new housing
It must be well-located. Living in places with limited access to
employment, services and public transport can compound social disadvantage
The role of governments will be critical to forming the collaborative
relationships necessary for establishing the diverse range of housing
necessary. Members of the community who are living with disability should not
have to relocate and leave their communities behind in order to access
appropriate, affordable housing.
Features of potential models
Since the inception of the NDIS, a number of submitters have been
working to develop models of accommodation for people with disability. While
embracing the potential of the Scheme to significantly improve accommodation
options, some submitters, such as the Summer Foundation, were of the view that
it is still too early in the life of the NDIS to confidently conclude which
models are most appropriate. The Foundation instead proposed four core
characteristics housing models should have:
is accessible and its location aids in building community connections.
choices are diverse and include the option for people with disability to live
with their family.
have faith in the structure and delivery of the NDIA's housing payment scheme.
design and delivery of housing and support models is innovative and highly
Models currently in place, the Foundation suggested, do not meet the
above criteria. Several key issues of concern were identified:
slow pace of progress in using NDIS funds to create housing.
lack of investor certainty when investing in housing models.
lack of assurance that funding will be sufficient for the high-cost housing
needed by young people in RAC.
lack of a focused, strategic approach to funding innovation.
Current housing projects
Abbotsford Housing Demonstration
Abbotsford Housing Demonstration Project is one of the projects
established by the Summer Foundation to 'test and refine new options for young
people in or at risk of entry to residential aged care facilities.' Its
implementation was facilitated through the involvement of four core
organisations: Common Equity Housing Limited (CEHL), Transport Accident
Commission (TACT), Summer Foundation and Annecto. The four organisaisations developed
a shared vision of 'making a reality the long term impact of increasing
independence, decreasing support hours, and maximising control for tenants’.
The project aims to provide an alternative model for housing and support
for people with complex needs, in which tenants will be able to live—both in
their apartment and the wider community—in a manner reflecting their personal
choices and lifestyle preferences. Apartments are designed to be attractive to
any prospective buyer (irrespective of ability), functional and 'accessible but
Technology was pursued which could:
Reinforce each tenant’s sense of, and capacity for, independence,
privacy and personal control (through control of, for example, light, blinds,
temperature, door access)
Reinforce each tenant’s confidence and sense of security when
they were alone
Create reliable communication, safety and security arrangements
for emergencies and contingencies
Simultaneously reduce the need for ever-present support staff by
increasing each tenant’s independence.
The specific features of physical design of the individual
Highly accessible internal circulation spaces in each apartment,
(such as door and corridor width; room lengths; and turning circles)
Attractive design similar to neighbouring units, with use of
mainstream rather than disability specific design and products wherever
Accessible bathrooms and kitchens with a number of adaptable
features that can be tailored to individual requirements
Robust wall products to reduce damage from wheelchairs.
Support facilitators at Abbotsford assist only with what tenants cannot
do for themselves, an integral aspect of supporting people's independence. The
support model also recognises different staff competencies and tenant needs:
TAC has a Disability Services Agreement with annecto
regarding provision of care and support for the TAC tenants. The two Summer
Foundation tenants have support funded through Department of Housing and Human
Services ISPs. Support funded through TAC ensures access to support 24 hours a
day and is flexible based on each individual changing support needs. For those
with state disability funding, arrangements are less reliably aligned to
people’s support needs and to changes in those needs.
As people gain independence, confidence and capability through working
closely with support staff and become more comfortable using technology, the
requirement for paid support is expected to decrease over time.
Abbotsford is guided by tenancy and property management rules which
apply to all tenants. The project does not assume a relationship between
tenants, nor does it assume that one will develop over time. This is a critical
feature of Abbotsford and distinguishes the project from other shared living
The Summer Foundation cited evidence suggesting that the Abbotsford
model has increased tenants' independence and improved their quality of life.
The project's emphasis on increasing independence and building capacity were
considered integral to its ongoing success. Learnings from the Abbotsford
experience, the Summer Foundation stated, can be used to inform other projects
and new policy:
The most useful learning from Abbotsford is that organisations
with the foresight to recognise an opportunity for a housing development can be
successful, despite the challenges of short timelines and a lack of synchrony
between organisational processes.
The significance of simultaneously promoting personal
independence and increasing long term service effectiveness is just now being
realised. Ideally the Abbotsford experiences will commence an ongoing process
of learning and development with ever expanding possibilities through
improvements in design, technology and staff practices.
The committee is aware that the Abbotsford experience has informed
refinements in other housing developments, but also that no model can be
replicated the same way each time. Taking a uniform approach based on the
success on one model would, in fact, run contrary to the central aim of
tailoring housing arrangements to individual needs and preferences.
The Haven Foundation
The Haven Foundation was established in 2006 by a small number of
mothers whose adult children had long-term mental illness, and is a registered
housing provider in Melbourne, Victoria. By registering as a charity, the Foundation
was able to secure funding through the state government, the Catholic Church
and through fundraising activities. With considerable effort over a number of
years, the foundation was able to secure $3.2 million in funding from the state
government to convert a disused convent into 14 fully self-contained
one-bedroom apartments with facilities for support staff. Residents are
responsible for day-to-day living, including meals.
The housing is now managed by the Haven Foundation, which in 2013
applied for and achieved registered housing provider status. To qualify,
be diagnosed with a mental illness;
have been scheduled to achieve a functional level of daily living
be medically compliant (taking their medication and attending
necessary medical appointments); and
be over 18 years of age.
For future Haven projects residents will be required to be eligible for
an NDIS package, through which on-site support will be provided. A significant
feature of the model going forward will be the high degree of involvement
required from families and carers:
There is an extensive involvement in the families and carers
in the day-to-day running of Haven in South Yarra. There is a standing
committee that meets every month, which oversees Haven South Yarra. It
comprises me, two representatives from the Prahran Mission, two parents and two
They have an extensive involvement. There is an active
involvement, and each resident is allocated a key support worker. Service
provider activities focus on skilled (inaudible) development, give support and
social inclusion. There are individual program plans developed for each
resident and they are reviewed on a six-monthly basis, in partnership with the
resident and with the approval of the resident and business family.
The Haven has by all accounts been a success, with 11 out of 12 surveyed
families reporting that the model had contributed towards mental health
Five Dock mixed use development
In 2004 the Canada Bay Council and a private developer, Koundouris
Group, redeveloped a single level supermarket and car park into a large
development comprising a range of apartment types, a supermarket, public
library and café. Apartments are arranged around a shared courtyard, while the
whole mixed-use development is connected by a network of paths that link
private and open spaces. The pedestrian-friendly laneways integrate the
development into the wider neighbourhood. The variety of apartments 'encourages
a diverse mix of residents and provides a range of different living options to
meet different needs.'
The Cairo concept
Planning began in 2008 for the development the 'Cairo model', which will
create a diverse housing environment in Southbank [Melbourne]:
The proposed development is an inclusive, high amenity residential
apartment tower where people with disability can live and engage in the social,
sporting, economic and cultural opportunities available to all residents of the
CCZ [capital city zone].
Ten per cent, or twenty five, of the available apartments are intended
for people with disability requiring support—these will be peppered throughout
the building. Fifteen apartments will be supported by government funding, while
the remainder will be available for private purchase. Seventy-five per cent
'will be built to platinum accessibility standard.' Facilities will include an
accessible gymnasium, retail spaces and swimming pool.
Home Occupiers Mutual Enterprise
Home Owners Mutual Enterprise (HOME) is a registered charity in Sydney's
inner west, offering people with disability an innovative alternative housing
option by providing a socially inclusive housing complex. The complex aims to
house a mix of residents, reflecting the make-up of the local community.
Between 15–20 per cent of the dwellings will be for people with disability. The
following features are central to the model's aim of integrating residents of
all ability levels:
the acquisition of properties within existing or new apartment
a HOME Community Inclusion Facilitator, funded out of a partial
pooling of NDIS funding to coordinate social inclusion.
(desirably) a community meeting space which may be a retail
premises like a café, but also operates as a hub for inclusive community
The first development is in the planning stages and is awaiting the
outcome of an application for funding through DSS. The HOME submission,
however, recognises that a universal solution for the housing affordability
problem is unlikely. HOME instead discusses funding inner-city
disability-friendly accommodation for a subset of people whose ageing parents
own valuable real estate which could be a valuable equity resource.
Freedom Housing is a model of privately owned housing, in a small 4
house development, supported by a central structure that will provide
governance of the facility, as well as the necessary care and supports required
by the residents. A feature of the model is its flexibility. The houses can be
owner-occupied, leased through an NGO, or rented from a private developer. The
provision of care and supports will be funded through the residents' NDIS
package and the building will be managed through an Owners' Corporation, which
will comprise representatives from each household. In addition, Freedom
Housing propose that the Owners' Corporation will provide:
Care services and care coordination;
Coaching and Training.
Freedom Housing argue that this model satisfies all the conditions and
objectives of the NDIS Act, as well as providing flexible, safe, secure and
sustainable housing options for people with disability and their families.
Community Living Accommodation
Community Living Association Ltd. (CLA) is a community-based
organisation supporting ageing carers, and their middle-aged sons and daughters
with disability. CLA supports 45 carers who are aged between 65 and 88 years on
the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.
CLA have partnered with a range of organisations to develop the Cloverleaf
Housing Project, which will comprise a 'two-story building with 4 separate
units for 2 people in each unit, joined by a lobby area on each floor that will
connect the 2 units.' Residents will have their own bedrooms, and share common
facilities such as kitchens, dining and laundries. Again the underlying
principle of the project is independence and the choice and control by the
resident over their accommodation.
The Cloverleaf Project has secured funding from a number of
organisations, negotiated matching funds the state government, and has applied
to the Commonwealth government under the Specialist Disability Accommodation
Initiative (SDAI), for 'top-up' funding for the project. However the
contribution of $1 million from the state government is contingent on the
success of the SDAI application. If they are not successful, the Victorian
government will not provide its contribution.
The Kaufhaus Breuer development in Eschweiler, Germany, is a mixed-use
building housing accessible apartments, function and recreation rooms, and a
restaurant open to residents and the public. The development includes five
self-contained units and a single shared accommodation apartment. Residents
benefit from open-plan living spaces which are easily adapted to accommodate
individual needs, and have access to support as required.
Also in Germany, the Sankt Antonius Community Centre aims to provide
accommodation for people with disability who want to live as independently as
possible, while still having access to assistance in day-to-day life. Twelve
assisted living apartments sit atop a community hall, fair trade ship and
social welfare offices. These are primarily designed for people over 60, but
are available to all age groups. Residents of Sankt Antonius access and receive
support services when needed. The development was initiated and funded by the
Sankt Antonius church community, which many of the residents are affiliated
with (although this is not a requirement of residence).
Options for people with disability are one of the most positive outcomes
of the NDIS, and the principle of choice and control for people underpins the
entire Scheme. Through the roundtable and subsequent submissions, the
committee is now aware of the extensive activity taking place across the
country to develop appropriate accommodation options for people with
disability. The innovation and creativity in developing solutions is testament
to the potential present in the sector.
The committee also welcomes the NDIA's draft position paper on pricing
and payments for specialist disability accommodation. The paper answers a
number of questions on how ongoing accommodation costs will be serviced in the
While clarity around ongoing costs may be improving, and a picture
emerging of the types of accommodation that will be developed in the coming
years, in the committee's view there remains a gap in how people with
disability can access and take full advantage of the improved opportunities.
The committee recommends the Commonwealth government explore all
possible proposals for disability accommodation, and the ways it can assist in bringing
them to fruition.
As part of the analysis of proposals, the committee recommends the
Commonwealth should assess how financially accessible they are for people with
disability and their families.
Investment and funding models
Investment into the sector is needed from a wide range of stakeholders.
This includes people with disability, their families and housing corporations.
Currently there is a considerable regulatory and compliance burden in
place—this represents a barrier to entry and a disincentive for investors who
wish to provide, or continue providing, social housing.
The committee heard that greater certainty and clarity about the
trajectory of regulatory and funding policy was required. In this vein, Activ
found the price benchmark methodology developed by the NDIA to be appropriate,
but called for them to be regularly reviewed:
Benchmarks must also be subject to regular review and the
application of appropriate indexation, otherwise over time the benchmarks will
be eroded and lose their relevance. An open approach by the NDIA to the ongoing
resolution of these issues will assist to allay the concerns regarding the
current lack of details. The Commonwealth government has not demonstrated a
good record in the application of appropriate and sustainable levels of indexation.
Activ further suggested that the NDIA should allow service providers to
own and operate disability accommodation. As providers will want to leverage
current equity in order to contribute to future housing developments, they
should be allowed to retain equity in current housing capacity. The alternative
would be counterproductive:
To reduce the capacity of providers to own and operate
disability related accommodation would severely reduce the development of
potential options in an era where demand significantly exceeds supply. All
endeavours should be made to maintain the current level of supply and to find
new options to increase supply into the future.
Brighton Care Group suggested a number of ways that could assist in
increasing capital investment in the sector, and broaden the range of
Universities constructing accessible student housing for
Superannuation funds providing capital investment
Use of social impact bonds by both private and not for profit organisations
The possible role of not-for-profit service providers as a
possible source of housing investment should not be underestimated. While it
would be necessary to have frank and honest communication about the possible
conflict of interest inherent in such arrangements, neither is this
Funding through NDIS transition programme
Specialist Disability Accommodation
As part of the NDIS broader transition, DSS have two grants available to
assist in the provision of specialist disability accommodation. The first is
the Specialist Disability Accommodation Initiative (SDAI). This is designed to
help address immediate community need for specialist disability housing in
areas outside NDIS trial sites, as determined by geographic location or age
cohort, by providing ‘top up’ funding to:
increase the availability of accommodation for people with a
disability, who the applicant anticipates will be eligible for the NDIS, with a
particular focus on:
those housed in inappropriate accommodation settings; and
those with ageing carers who are in need of a long-term,
identify project initiatives with self-sustaining specialist
disability housing models which could be scaled up in the future.
The fund is not available to individuals for contribution to the private
ownership of a property, nor will it be provided for the ongoing maintenance
costs for buildings or equipment. Instead it will be provided to organisations
as 'top up funding only to enable the completion of projects with an immediate
need which, have community support, are outside NDIS trial sites, and can
demonstrate that care and support funding will be provided by the relevant
state or territory (or other third party).'
Supported Accommodation Innovation
The second grant targeted at assisting in the development of specialist
disability accommodation is the Supported Accommodation Innovation Fund
(SAIF). This is a Commonwealth funded capital initiative designed to promote
innovation in design and delivery of permanent and respite accommodation places
for people with disability through individual projects across Australia.
The SAIF initiative encouraged partnerships both within the disability
sector and in other public sectors in the development and delivery of
innovative accommodation facilities and support models.
While it is included in the NDIS Transition Programme guidelines,
presumably because projects funded under the initiative are still to reach
completion, applications for the fund have closed, and there is no indication
that they will be opened for a further funding round.
The committee supports the provision of grants to develop housing
concepts, and to provide urgent housing solutions outside the current NDIS
trial sites. However, there is a lack of clarity about whether the SAIF grant
is still available, and if it is not, why it is included in a list of grants
published as late as December 2015. If the grant programme is not currently
available, the committee would like to know whether it will be replaced by
The committee recommends that the Department of Social Services clarify
the status of the Supported Accommodation Innovation Fund, and if the fund is
no longer available, whether it will be replaced with another initiative to
assist in the development of innovative housing solutions for people with
Utilising the co-operative model
PaRA (Parent Assisted Residential Accommodation) Co-operative Limited
focused on the NDIS' objective of giving people choice and control, and pointed
out that there can be 'a trade-off between achieving economies of scale and the
individual having choice and control.'
To address this, the PaRA Co-operative submission proposed a housing
model which would arguably achieve better outcomes for individuals whilst
reducing the cost to government. The concept involves people with disabilities,
with or without their families, forming co-operatives to provide supported
accommodation, and drawing on private and public funds to enable residents to
acquire shared equity in the property over a length of time.
This proposal is consistent with suggestions made by the Business
Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM), which outlined the benefits of co-operatives
are member owned for member benefit, utilising democratic
promote autonomy and independence of operation
engage member economic contributions and re-invest operational
promote cooperation in the community
engage in long-term value creation.
BCCM made the case for strengthening the presence of co-operatives and
mutuals in the social housing landscape and incorporating the concept into the
NDIS framework, citing a 2014 BCCM White Paper (Public Service Mutuals, a
third way for delivering public services in Australia). The paper
highlighted the success of co-operatives and mutuals in the United Kingdom
(UK), where they have grown to deliver services in multiple public service
The UK Government has actively fostered the development of
over 100 new mutual organisations (known as Public Service Mutuals) since 2009,
now delivering over $1.5 billion of public services.3 PSM’s have generated so
much momentum that Francis Maude of the UK Cabinet Office stated in July 2014
that: ‘mutuals are the future of public services’.
Mutuals have led to lower costs and higher productivity in the UK, and
were, BCCM stated, demonstrated to be more resilient to economic ebbs and
In the context of this inquiry, BCCM submitted that co-operatives and
mutuals present a means of improving housing outcomes for people with
- Creating an alternative path for choice and control.
Co-operatives have participatory governance structures that are critical in
housing if NDIS participants cannot have full choice and control over their
- Achieving scale within an NDIS housing market. Co-operatives can
achieve scale without sacrificing choice and control for people with disability
because co-operatives are being run by people with disability for people with
- Leveraging contributions from family and philanthropy.
Co-operatives can create structures to support joint equity ownership and
provide long term housing commitments that enable families to confidently gift
housing and assets.
- Retaining operational surpluses to be reinvested in people with
disability. Co-operatives ensure that accumulated resources (operational
surpluses on the services delivered and ownership of housing) continue to
benefit people with disability.
The historic exclusion and isolation of Australians with disability from
community life, however, means that 'a catalyst is needed to develop
co-operatives in the NDIS.'
BCCM offered eight concrete recommendations for achieving this outcome:
Recommendation #1: Add an additional objective to the
NDIS housing framework that NDIS funded housing builds the individual and
collective wealth of people with disability.
Recommendation #2: Add an additional objective to the
NDIS housing framework that requires NDIS housing projects to involve people
with disability in the design and approval process.
Recommendation #3: Empower and support existing group
home residents and staff to create in home care co-operatives.
Recommendation #4: Create a co-operative incubator to
provide capacity building, technical assistance and mentoring to new
Recommendation #5: Support the establishment of a
co-operative Disability Land Trust where land and housing is owned collectively
by people with disability into perpetuity.
Recommendation #6: Provide certainty in user cost of
capital funding and aggregate payments to allow for housing bonds to be issued.
Recommendation #7: Allocate funding to create a
smarter housing market that uses technology based solutions to reduce market
failures in disability housing, including a platform to connect tenants to
Recommendation #8: Add a category of Co-operative
Accommodation Providers as eligible for Specialist Disability Accommodation
(SDA) funding. The BCCM supports this recommendation in the submission made by
the PaRA Co-operative to this inquiry.
AHURI pointed out that government subsidies might be required to achieve
shared equity in housing, particularly given that:
'the majority of NDIS participants are likely to be
low-income. Because of the high costs associated with homeownership (such as
rates and maintenance), people with low incomes could afford shared equity only
if they are able to secure the initial capital contribution without any debt,
for example through assistance from their families.
PaRA Co-operative Limited discussed their experience of forming
a co- operative which currently provides supported accommodation for
three young men with autism. Establishing the co-operative, registering as a
service provider and drafting multiple policies and procedures designed to
comply with Disability Service Standards was, the submitter stated,
time-consuming and mired in bureaucratic red tape.
The approval system in place, the committee understood, is not suited to modern
To address this, PaRA expressed its readiness to assist in the
establishment of other co-operatives:
We want to create an enterprise co-operative to be an
incubator by providing a service for other groups of families to enable them to
do what we have done in a more streamlined way so that the benefits of
operating as a small service provider can be achieved without the pain we had
to go through to get there.
We propose that NDIS funding include a one-off claim of say
$5,000 per individual towards the fee charged by the enterprise co-operative
for helping families establish and learn how to operate a co-operative service.
Recognising the role of carers
The majority of Australians with disability receive at least some
assistance from carers who are family members or friends:
All caring roles are different, as what carers do depends on
the condition and support needs of the person they care for, their relationship
with that person, and other family and cultural factors. Caring can involve
anything from round-the-clock nursing care, to transport and domestic
assistance, to emotional support, and everything in between. While caring can
have a number of positive impacts, many carers face considerable challenges,
including financial hardship, poor health and wellbeing and social isolation,
especially if they have an intensive caring role with inadequate support.
Increasing the independence of people with disability is likely to
decrease the pressure on carers, because with increased independence comes
reduced reliance on family and friends to meet everyday support needs. This is
particularly the case when NDIS funding enables adults with disability to move
out of their parents' homes and into appropriately supported independent
Carers NSW called for the NDIS to acknowledge the role carers can play in
facilitating independent living:
Many success stories are underpinned by the efforts of carers
who expend considerable time and energy advocating, planning and coordinating
supports. These carers need support to continue, and some may prefer to opt out
if equivalent funded supports are available. Such a high level of involvement
in advocacy and support coordination may jeopardise the sustainability of their
overall caring role and cost them in terms of their own wellbeing. Indeed, many
carers are not even in a position to be so involved in helping the person they care
for to transition to independent living. Not all carers have the language
skills, confidence, emotional reserves or financial resources required. These
carers and the people they care for should not be disadvantaged in their
pursuit of appropriate housing.
Carers NSW went on to reject calls for families to help cover housing
costs for people with disability, arguing that such practices are not
considered the norm for non-caring families. Carers are also likely to
experience lower employment rates due to their responsibilities, which means
that caring has a direct relationship with long term income and savings
The Summer Foundation accepted that 'leveraging of parents/family wealth
to create housing co-ops or mutual societies may work', but that 'these options
will not be suitable for all families.'
The use of private capital, through capital sharing, securitisation and
joint ownership models was raised by a number of submitters. The attribution
of risk is a key issue in attracting capital investment to the provision of
housing, but a number of submitters proposed mechanisms that could mitigate and
appropriately attribute risk if all parties, and all elements of ownership were
The utilisation of the User Costs of Capital (UCC) was central to
proposals to securitise debt on disability housing. The Commonwealth Bank
argued that reliance on government to provide the capital investment for
specialist disability accommodation could be reduced in the right
[W]ith the right fundamentals the UCC could be used in
conjunction with a variety of capital providers (including bank debt, debt
capital markets and social impact investors) to assist in delivering the much
needed supply of SDA, reducing reliance on government.
The Commonwealth Bank proposed that the UCC provide the necessary
revenue to underpin capital investment by banks and other investors:
[W]ith the right fundamentals the UCC could be used in
conjunction with a variety of capital providers (including bank debt, debt
capital markets and social impact investors) to assist in delivering the much
needed supply of SDA, reducing reliance on government.
Australian Unity were also keen to see the UCC revenue flow used as
broadly as possible to provide confidence to investors, and to ensure that all
aspects of the accommodation were taken into account:
The NDIA’s user cost of capital payments should provide
certainty for housing providers and also take into account the higher cost of
creating accessible common areas in large mixed use developments.
The committee is also aware that many families want to assist, and
contribute where possible, in securing appropriate accommodation for their
family member. Home Occupiers Mutual Enterprise (HOME) Inc. highlighted both
the benefits of joint ownership, and the current barriers. HOME's submission
discussed the difficulties the parents of a person with disability may face,
and the cost involved in releasing equity from their own home to assist in the
funding of their child's accommodation.
HOME recommended a cheaper equity release scheme whereby the government
'looks to develop equity release programs that apply specifically to disability
housing, so that families that sign up to foregoing capital gains in their own
home so as to fund housing for their adult child with a disability can do so
without significant cost, and that housing owned on behalf of people with
disability can also release (some part of) equity without significant cost.'
Similar to the Commonwealth Bank and Australian Unity, HOME suggested
that capital debt could be securitised by NDIS and Disability Support Pensions.
The committee welcomes all suggestions for expanding the opportunities
for people with disabilities to access appropriate accommodation. Offering a
degree of certainty in terms of predicable revenue streams in something similar
to the Defence Housing Australia model, would help attract capital finance into
the sector. Joint ownership and other capital sharing ventures, such as the
co-operative model and private investor models, are areas the committee is keen
to see explored by the government.
The committee is also of the view that historically many parents have
chosen to assist in the costs of their child's accommodation, in the belief
that their contribution will accelerate the provision of appropriate and stable
housing for their loved ones. While this cannot be assumed in many cases, it
should be accommodated in the suite of policy options developed by governments.
The committee recommends the Commonwealth government explore capital
sharing, securitisation, and joint ownership options to expand the provision of
appropriate accommodation for people with disability.
Appropriate accommodation is a key factor in a person's wellbeing. One
of the tasks facing the NDIA is to assist people with disability in all aspects
of their lives, including which housing options they can access. In those
circumstances where a person requires a relatively high amount of care and
support, the specialist disability accommodation model seems to be an
appropriately comprehensive response to the issues that people with those types
of disability may face. The release of the draft position paper on pricing and
payments for specialist disability accommodation should provide some assurance
to the sector and beyond that, there is a coherent approach being developed
that will allow investment decisions to be made with a relative degree of
The committee understands that all avenues of funding and investment
need to be utilised to attract the myriad of options required to meet the
various circumstances of people with disability. However, in the committee's
view there is a still a gap in how people can access specialist disability
housing, and have a security of tenure that reflects their circumstances and
aspirations for an ordinary life.
The committee is also cognisant that the breadth of the housing issue
goes far beyond disability accommodation. The committee strongly supports the
views of submitters
that it is difficult to address the issues facing people with disability
without encountering broader issues around the provision of affordable and
appropriate accommodation for all Australians. The paucity of social housing
across the country impacts not just people with a disability who are eligible
for the NDIS. It impacts all those who, due to a variety of circumstances, are
excluded from the private housing market.
Nevertheless, there are some practical measures around planning and
building controls the committee thinks should be advanced that would extend the
utility of social housing to a broader section of the population. Ensuring all
new housing is compliant to an updated building code would ensure that people
with a range of disability could access a broader range of housing.
The committee also notes that understanding existing housing stock would
assist in determining where and what type of new stock should be built and for
whom, especially when looking at all NDIS participants, not just people
eligible for the NDIS Special Disability Accommodation payments. The committee
considers that for this purpose, it would be beneficial to establish baseline
data on the current volume of stock in each state, or local government area
where possible, as well as the number of people with disability by age,
disability type and government or non-government provider, living in
different types of disability accommodation settings.
Overall, the committee is of the view that the discussion around the
funding streams, investment, provision of land and housing stock, must take
place at a national level. Access to the housing market for certain groups is
not enabled through market forces in the current housing market so a degree of
market intervention is required. How this is facilitated is something the
parliament and its committees has an enduring interest in.
The committee is aware of the work currently being done by the
government's newly established Affordable Housing Working Group, and looks
forward to the outcomes from that process.
Likewise, the recommendations contained in the Senate Economics
References Committee 2015 report into Affordable Housing, and those in
the Senate Community Affairs References Committee's Adequacy of existing
residential care arrangements available for young people with severe physical,
mental or intellectual disabilities in Australia report sought to address
many of the issues that this committee is concerned with. The committee notes
the recommendations included in those reports.
The Hon. Bruce Billson MP
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