Kymberly Martin
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The inclusive gap narrows

“We are determined to see the burgeoning Specialist Disability Housing (SDA) market build with investors, developers and existing and new providers growing with confidence, and in confidence with SDA,” NDIS Minister Stuart Robert said at the ACCESS 2019 Conference in Sydney.

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A number of reforms to build confidence in the SDA market have been announced. Among these is the SDA pricing reforms framework that has been updated to give confidence to investors, by keeping prices stable while the market is developing. SDA legislative rules have also been amended to remove all requirements for participants to exhaust all other options before accessing SDA. “These changes will increase the ability of participants to go out into the market to use their funding to find an SDA property or commission a SDA dwelling that meets their needs,” the minister said.

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) now has a dedicated planning team to fast track SDA approvals. NDIA delegates must make referrals to the SDA panel where a participant may be eligible for SDA or expressing goal aspirations relating to housing that may include SDA. Work is also ongoing to increase flexibility in the SDA that will allow couples and families in SDA or, for participants with SDA, to live with non-SDA residents.

The SDA Design Standards will allow streamlined approvals for SDA construction, making it easier for eligible participants to access high quality housing. The industry has advocated strongly for the NDIS to facilitate the establishment of these Design Standards to provide greater clarity to the growing market and give more certainty to participants and providers.

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The SDA Design Standards, which have been developed by Livable Housing Australia, in cooperation with people with disability and the industry, will also influence the way architects and builders in the community consider housing for people with disability and how it should be built.

“Importantly, these will ensure participants continue to have access to high quality housing needs and give providers flexibility to respond to participants needs and preferences. It is important that to get the Design Standards and timeframes right in order to build on the confidence and growth seen in the market,” he said. The new Design Standards will be released in September.

However, the government is aware of risks to participants and the wider SDA market from dodgy operators who may attempt to take advantage or scam well-intentioned Australians.

The minister warned the government will be very tough on any evidence of sharp practices from financial institutions, or the like, that make claims overstating the returns that can be achieved, particularly for everyday Australian investors. “We have already seen many of these pop up in the market which is not a market for property spruikers who will face the full brunt of government regulatory agencies. The NDIS and NDIA Quality and Safeguards Commission will continue to work together to stamp out poor behaviour that may bring the SDA market into disrepute to ensure the right players are in, and the wrong players are well and truly out.”

He advised those with any concerns to take them directly to the NDIA.

The latest NDIS Quarterly Report demonstrated the growing impact of SDA with more SDA providers entering the market, an increase of 12 per cent to 977, while the number of enrolled dwelling grew by 9.5 per cent in the quarter. There are around 13,300 NDIS participants with SDA in the their plans.

“With our access and planning prioritisation for young people in residential ages care, the number of people receiving NDIS supports grew by 1,600 in the past year. This number includes 600 young participants living in aged care entering the NDIS in the June quarter, who now have the individual funding they need to source alternative accommodation, if this is their choice.”

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