Disability Housing

Background

Due to the the lack of affordable and suitable disabled housing across Australia, an estimated 28,000 are being forced to live in shared aged care accommodation.  Between 5,000 – 6,000 of these disabled are young people forced to live with old folk and more helpless people suffering from the likes of dementia.  Aged care has become synonymous with disability simply because some of the needs of our elderly are appropriate for the disabled. Simply because there is an insufficient supply of affordable housing designed specifically for the needs of our disabled, they have ended up being placed in aged care homes.  Manly has many such disabled people in this situation, all desperately in need of accommodation able to meet their unique needs. Most of these young disabled people could readily live in our community with the right accommodation, help and government subsidies (like NDIS funding).   While there are some similarities between disabled and aged care, our younger disabled people especially seek to enjoy a greater level of independence, a more active self-sufficient existence (like cooking for themselves) and often with a fervent desire for meaningful work (albeit part-time or useful volunteering activities) living within a more open environment than that available at a traditional aged care home.

Funding

NDIS has recently begun funding new housing specifically for disabled people.   This opportunity has been used recently to great effect by the non-profit Summer Housing Foundation, chaired by former AMP CEO and Australian of the Year Simon McKeon.  In 2016, Summer Housing acquired 10 existing apartments in a Newcastle, Belmont 110-unit building, which were modified for people with disabilities.  Summer Housing were able to obtain an NDIS guaranteed long term rentals agreement. The upfront purchase of these apartments were rented out over the long term to NDIS designated disabled people eligible for such accommodation.  This NDIS rental guarantee goes a long way to also address the other aspects of our affordable housing market crisis, namely freeing up much needed space in old aged care homes as our Australian population ages and our younger disabled move from institutions into the community.

One Scenario

On 1 May Michael Bleby (ARF Journalist) wrote an interesting article on a wheel-chair-bound 40 year old women with serious disabilities (muscular dystrophy and a congenital disease that affects voluntary muscles) who had moved into one of the Summer Housing apartments.   She had lived in an aged care home for 7 years, where she shared a room with 3 other women who suffered from dementia.  She was perfectly able to look after herself but couldn’t do so in a home so well geared up to look after mostly helpless aged people. In the Summer Housing apartment, a quarter of her disability pension went towards rent and her commonwealth rent assistance payment (from NDIS) was converted into an income stream an asset of the Owner (Summer Housing).  Summer Housing were therefore able to count on this regular income and in turn borrow upon it (to acquire more similar disability accommodation elsewhere – Grocon apartments in Melbourne, where more such disable friendly apartments could be adapted).  Her one bedroom apartment delivers a weekly SDA payment of $1,600, complementing her NDIS payment of $111 and her rental assistance payment of $44.  The NDIS funding covers not only the rental income stream , but the specialist disability modification costs (between $4,000 and $12,000 – for higher benchtops, ceiling hoist and the provision of an apartment  for a carer for the other 9 disabled residents who undertakes ongoing maintenance and upkeep.   

A New Model for Disability Housing

This new funding model gives recognition of the need for homes to be accessible with features designed to cater for the frail and the disabled.  Within our Manly Community are many such disabled people both young and mature.  The coming availability of the Manly Hospital Site is a unique opportunity to consider the likes of the Summer Housing model to make disability friendly accommodation available to our disabled people forced to live in less than ideal accommodation where regular contact and mixing with members of the local community also reside and where employment and volunteering opportunities exist.

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