Disability (Physical/Mental)

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Initiative Title: Disability (Physical/Mental)
Category: Residential Services Initiatives

Future of Manly Hospital Site – Disability (Physical/Mental) Housing


Because of the lack of suitable housing for our estimated 28,000 disabled across Australia, many are being forced to live in shared aged care accommodation.  Over a quarter of these disabled (5,000 – 6,000 young people) are youths living with old folk, many of whom suffer from dementia.  Aged care has become synonymous with disability simply because there is insufficient disability accommodation being designed with their special needs in mind.  Our Manly community has many disabled people in this situation, desperately in need of accommodation that is able to cater to their special needs. Most of these young disabled people could readily live in our community with the right accommodation, appropriate help and with government subsidies (like NDIS funding).    While there are many similarities between our disabled and aged care, younger people especially enjoy a greater level of independence, a more active environment and often a fervent desire for meaningful work (albeit part-time work or useful volunteering) and a more open living environment which sets them apart from the needs required for traditional aged care.


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. 

Backed by NDIS, Institutional Infrastructure Investors are poised to fund specialised accommodation for people with disabilities, to the tune of $5bill.   Organisations like Summer Housing, Macquarie Group, Lighthouse Infrastructure, Australian Unity, Bupa, Dexus, Charter Hall, etc.  are part of an emerging market where there is a genuine appetite for investing in such disability infrastructure. 

Federal Government funding, courtesy of the NDIS, through its “Specialist Disability Accommodation” funding instrument is set to expand its current funding to $700mill per year.  This funding stream is designed for the development of specialist dwellings, modified for people with disabilities.  As many as 12,500 new dwellings will be needed for the estimated 28,000 disabled requiring modified homes and apartments to be able to stay in their own home rather than going to some aged care facility.  The SDA funding varies according to categories of accommodation – be it overnight assistance, 1 bedroom apartment with overnight assistance for one resident (which attracts around $40,000.  Such a return flows back to providers who have invested upfront into acquiring and/or modifying apartments, etc.    Those modification can cost as much as $50,000 – $90,000.   Depending upon location, investments of this nature can attract 6-9% income return on investment, not counting the capital sunk into the apartment. 

In 2016, Summer Housing acquired 10 existing apartments in a Newcastle (in the 110-unit Belmont 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.   Mr McLennan (from Summer Housing) explains “It’s not to create a non-market return but to provide enhanced income to subsidise the extra cost of modifying dwellings and the extra cost of providing a (disability) service.” Like in their Grocon project at Fairfield in Melbourne,  Summer Hill has raised $100 mill in tranches this year in a Newcastle project involving its 11 apartments off the plan – 10 are modified and one reserved as a hub for support workers.  It is looking for further opportunities in Sydney, Melbourne & Brisbane. 

Base prices for new builds of specialist disability apartments extend out for 1 bed residents from $38-$90,000, for 2 bed residents from $40 – $110,000, for 2 bed 2 residents from $20-$50,000 and 3 bed 2 residents from $22-$$70,000; depending upon the level of support required and the degree of improved liveability available.   Macquarie Group is understood to be one of the early entrants, along with boutique investment House Lighthouse Infrastructure.  Australian Unity is also taking a look at the emerging sector.  Its also commanding interest from traditional property players, like Dexus, which is investing in health care property and fund managers like Charter Hall coming from its Folkestone child care centres.  Nick Lenaghan AFR 22 Nov’18.  

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 geared 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, being an asset of the Owner (Summer Housing).  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 bench-tops, ceiling hoist and the provision of an apartment  for a carer for the other 9 disabled residents who undertakes ongoing maintenance and upkeep.    Summer Housing were therefore able to count on this regular income and in turn borrow upon it (to acquire more similar disability accommodation elsewhere).  Like the Grocon apartments in Melbourne, where more such disable friendly apartments could be adapted to the needs of our disabled.  

This new funding model gives recognition to 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 and potentially the Queenscliff Site are unique opportunities to consider the likes of the Summer Housing model for adapting them for disability friendly accommodation.  The type of accommodation that could be made available to our disabled people, who are currently forced to live in less than ideal accommodation, would afford our disabled regular contact and mixing accommodation with other members of our local community.  They would also be able to reside in an environment where local employment and volunteering opportunities would also exist.

Additional funding for our disabled varies depending upon the degree of disability (paraplegic, quadraplegic, mental illness etc.).  The main additional item often needing to be accommodated in the former disabilities is the “wheel chair”. There are some common basic needs, like:-

  • Wider room entrances and more spacious rooms for wheel chair movement
  • Lighter and sliding doors
  • Low access storage areas
  • Beneath bench access (rather than bench cupboards)
  • Special non-slip carpet squares 
  • Support railings, shower seats
  • Smart technologies, like voice recognition lights, devices, seizure mats plus an array of mobile phone apps for self-help, communication with support staff and requests for assistance

Then there are the special needs for particular individual disability situations, like cooking appliances, toilet access, washing, showering and laundry facilities.   Most of these special needs would be expected to be acquired by the disabled to fit in with their special needs.   


Contact Name: Darryl Dobe
Contact Email Address:
Start Date: 20-Jun-2017
End Date: 21-Dec-2018
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Volunteers already signed up for this Special Project Initiative (if any)

  1. Darryl Dobe   

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