Disability friendly apartments are being built in Braddon to cater for needs of the less fortunate members of society who need such facilities to live ordinary lives.
SDA is a new type of accommodation for people with extreme functional impairment (difficulty getting out of bed, getting dressed, making meals, going out) or very high support needs (many hours every day), with 24-hour access to onsite support.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for people with significant disabilities,” said Housing Hub general manager Alecia Rathbone.
People with complex disabilities often have had no choice over where they lived or with whom, she said. Before the National Disability Insurance Scheme was introduced, many were allocated places in group homes run by communities or disability organisations, unable to live with their spouse or children.
Even today, many of the ACT’s 80,000 people with disability face challenges finding suitable housing options, an ACT government spokesperson said. They often need to custom build their own homes or be forced to live in public housing that doesn’t meet their needs (as the ABC reported this year).
“Specialist Disability Accommodation has been set up because it is recognised that under the NDIS, people should get to choose where they live and who they live with,” Ms Rathbone said. “For people with really complex disability, that hasn’t been possible. [Now, the tenants] will have the opportunity to live a more ordinary life.”
The apartments will be ‘salt and peppered’ throughout the apartment complex, Ms Rathbone explained. The tenants will not be clustered together, but they will be in a community co-operative, sharing support workers.
The apartments are a mixture of:
- Fully Accessible: for people who use a wheelchair some or all the time – no steps, wide doorways, bathrooms, and kitchens that can be used by people sitting or standing;
- Improved Liveability: doorways, handles, and switches are easy to see; and
- High Physical Support: for people who use an electric wheelchair, need a hoist to get out of bed, and need many hours of support. These apartments have all the features of Fully Accessible SDAs, plus emergency back-up power, a ceiling strong enough for a hoist, an intercom to a support worker, and voice-controlled doors, lights, and heating.
The NDIS helps subsidise the housing for people with complex disability needs through their Plan. Tenants do not need capital to buy the property, but will pay rent (25% of Disability Support Pension and 100% of Rent Assistance), Ms Rathbone said.
“It can feel like a long process, but if you believe better is possible, you can move into your own home,” she advised people with disabilities. “Talk to us, and we’ll help.”
As of 31 March, 158 active NDIS participants in the ACT wanted SDA in their NDIS Plan.
The Summer Foundation has already built 20 High Physical Support SDA apartments in Belconnen and Woden in the last two years, while other SDA homes are being built in the ACT.
Research shows that people with disability living in SDA have a better quality of life, Ms Rathbone said; they are more engaged in community, work, and leaving the home.
Shanais Neilson said her life has changed since she began living in an SDA apartment in Melbourne.
“I have been able to move from my family home in NSW to my own accessible apartment in Melbourne. I now feel true independence; it means I can go to work, have friends over whenever I please, get out and about in the community independently, and so much more. SDA has changed the way I see independence, and allowed me to live the life I want to live.
“Living in SDA has provided me with independence I never even dreamt of! I have control over the support that I need, who supports me, and when I receive the support. There is also 24/7 on-site support available, so I never feel stranded or unsupported, as there is always someone in the building if something unplanned happens and I need emergency support.”
The ACT Government was committed to accessible, safe, and affordable housing for people with disability, a spokesperson said. They funded the Summer Foundation through the 2019 Affordable Housing Innovation Fund to help people with disability find suitable housing; data gathered illustrated the demand for housing for people with disability in the ACT, which helps SDA providers decide what to build.