Housing Projects Provide Proof Accessible Design Works
It’s one thing to know where the best places to build accessible housing are, but quite another to build the right type of housing for people with disability.
While the National Disability Insurance Scheme is providing incentive to developers and investors to tap into the accessible housing market via specialist disability accommodation (SDA) subsidies, it doesn’t provide guidance on what to build.
Understanding what people with disability want from SDA is vital if investors are to maximise returns on their investment in the long term.
As part of our research into demand for SDA across Australia, we asked people with disability what they most want from housing.
This research is included in the Specialist Disability Accommodation: Market Insights report, which the Summer Foundation prepared in conjunction with the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute and SGS Economics & Planning and released last month.
The policy around SDA is designed to ensure that individuals have greater choice about where with whom and the type of housing they live in. But the research found that many potential SDA participants currently have no choice but to live in accommodation that is poorly aligned with their preferences, such as group homes and nursing homes.
In Australia, 87 per cent of the 17,500 people currently living in SDA live in group homes. There are a further 6,200 people under age 65 living in aged care and another 27,000 people with very high support needs not living in SDA or aged care, mostly residing with family and often with ageing parents.
The median age for people in SDA is 46, but when future demand for SDA is taken into consideration this age drops to 34. These people want and need more options to be able to live a more independent life.
Sixty-nine people with high support needs provided information for the demand study about how and where they want to live. Younger people with high support needs who are living with family, in group homes or aged care, indicated a strong desire for change. They wanted to move into their own place and find greater independence and privacy while staying close to family, friends and services.
Accessibility, privacy and safety were all key concerns.
The Summer Foundation, and its sister organisation Summer Housing have built two housing demonstration projects that showcase to investors and developers what is possible when it comes to building high-quality SDA.
These projects, in Abbotsford, Victoria, and the Hunter region of NSW, combine accessibility with liveability and include accommodation for the support staff of residents. Both developments provide SDA peppered throughout mainstream residential developments.
The apartments feature clever communications and smart home technology to ensure residents can enjoy their independence and privacy while still having access to 24-hour on-call support.
The Abbottsford project includes six fully accessible self-contained one-bedroom apartments for people with disability among a 59-unit mixed private and social housing development.
The Hunter project is of a larger scale, incorporating 10 apartments for people with disability and one apartment for disability support workers among a 110-unit private development.
When it comes to accessible housing, location is everything. The Hunter development is centrally located close to transport, shops and community facilities. From the outside, the apartments are not distinguishable from neighbouring apartments.
The apartments include two 1.5-bedroom, six 2-bedroom and two 3-bedroom apartments. The apartments vary in size from 70m2 (1.5 bedroom) to 115m2 (3-bedroom) and have been designed to achieve Platinum level certification under Livable Housing Australia Design Guidelines.
A two-way communications system enables tenants to contact support workers in the event of an emergency or unplanned support in each apartment. All apartments have built-in wiring and cabling that enables cost-effective future installation of home automation.
Importantly, these apartments are offering people with very high support needs the opportunity to live a more fulfilling, independent life while being connected to their community.
Our own tenants have documented how moving to this type of supported, independent accommodation has changed their lives, boosted their confidence and allowed them to feel free for the first time.
While SDA legislation is new and there is still much to learn, the benefits of investing in SDA and providing people with disability the kind of life they have a right to should outweigh any bumps in the road along the way.