Accessible Housing Offers Untapped Opportunity

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has been rolling out across Australia since 2013. While many people will have heard of the NDIS, few may be aware of the investment opportunity the scheme is creating.

Accessible Housing Offers Untapped Opportunity
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The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has been rolling out across Australia since 2013.

While many people will have heard of the scheme, few may be aware of the investment opportunity the scheme is creating through accessible housing.

Under the NDIS the way that housing for people with disability is provided is changing, aiming to give people more choice and control over how and where they want to live.

For an estimated 6 per cent of NDIS participants, the scheme is providing a financial subsidy towards the costs of their specialist disability accommodation (SDA). This provision was introduced into the scheme in July 2016.

SDA is a big financial component of the scheme, $700 million has been allocated annually by the NDIS to fund SDA. Recent research by the Summer Foundation has mapped out unmet demand for SDA across Australia and identified that over $4 billion of new SDA stock is needed across Australia.

SDA is for people with disability who require specialist housing solutions to help with the delivery of supports that cater for their extreme functional impairment or very high support needs.

Examples could include – but are not limited to – full wheelchair access, provision of ceiling hoists, adjustable benchtops and integrated assistive technology. The housing should offer flexible solutions that can be customised for individual needs.

The SDA payment from the NDIS is a standardised yearly amount that is calculated based on the dwelling’s location, size and level of accessibility. The SDA prices are based on a 5.2% return on debt and 8.1 per cent return on debt (equivalent to 11.6 per cent before tax).

SDA payments cover a wide range of housing options, depending on the individual’s needs, and have been set to cover the cost of capital and to incentivise a new market. While SDA funding is included in individual NDIS support plans, it is actually paid to the housing provider. For SDA providers to be paid the dwellings must be occupied by NDIS participants, meaning the provider bears the vacancy risk if they are unable to find a tenant.

In addition to the SDA payment, the provider also receives a Reasonable Rent Contribution (RRC) paid by the tenant. While investors might feel uneasy about the tenancy vacancy risk, a government-funded report released last month and prepared by the Summer Foundation, the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute and SGS Economics & Planning reveals that the existing supply of SDA housing across Australia needs to grow by 60 per cent to meet demand.

The areas of most significant need, per capita, are in the ACT and NSW and in other high growth areas of Victoria and Queensland.

Key findings of the Specialist Disability Accommodation: Market Insights Report include:

  • That there is a gap of 10,500 places that need to be built, based on current supply that is already available in the market
  • NSW has a shortfall of 3290 places, Victoria 2940 places and Queensland 2310 places
  • Much of the existing supply is not well designed for the future market and will need to be redeveloped. The majority of current SDA residents live in group homes, however this was not found to be the preferred type of accommodation

The high level of demand should be welcome news for investors wanting to invest in social infrastructure funded through the government incentives to build SDA.

The report pinpoints the particular areas, especially around the major cities where demand for housing is most needed and job density is also high. These are the areas that potential investors in SDA could focus on.

SDA tenants want more choice about where they live, who they live with and they also want stability.

For people with complex care needs where they live is a big deal. It’s not easy to uproot and move if you are unhappy, especially when you rely on support workers and supportive infrastructure just to get by each day. Tenants with disability tell us that they want to find long term housing – when tenants find the right housing, with the right supports in place to help them
they want to have a long term tenure.

Accessible housing is not just good for people with disability, accessible housing is good quality housing for all. There are many lessons to be learnt from the accessible housing sector that could be applied to mainstream housing that would enable people to live in their own homes longer, particularly as they age. Accessible housing that is built now can only maintain its appeal long into the future, especially in the context of an ageing population.

Investing in accessible housing is not just about bricks and mortar. The NDIS represents one of the biggest shifts in Australian social policy in our history, giving people with disability the same
right to live an ordinary life as the rest of us.

Accessible housing is an exciting, innovative sector with the potential to have enormous benefits on the overall health and well-being for members of our community that have been disadvantaged for too long.

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