Short- and long-term options for access to disability housing
Address by Robbi Williams, CEO, JFA Purple Orange, to the Believe Housing Australia Disability Housing Roundtable, Adelaide, Tuesday, 28 February 2023
The availability of housing for people living with disability is not good. But what is it that we are trying to resolve; is it the supply of housing, or is it the creation of home?
In tackling that question, what might we assert? We can assert the Federal Government sharpen investor appetites for NDIS SDA, a framework intended to stimulate housing supply for the most disabled six per cent of the disability community seeking a housing solution.
There are two problems with that. First, what about the other 94 per cent. They’re already sorted, are they? No, they’re not.
Second, the pricing structure of the NDIA, together with the NDIS process for determining eligibility, appears to be conspiring, in its trend, to build the next generation of group homes. And if there’s anything I’ve learned across the past 30+ years in the countries I’ve worked in, it is that group homes are a structurally disastrous model for achieving authentic inclusion for their occupants.
The net effect of this is that the SDA funding is stimulating the supply of housing, but these houses are at risk of operating as a facility rather than creating a genuine sense of home, assisted by the deeply troublesome SIL approach to funding from the NDIS.
When the main supply of housing is predicated on shared living, it marginalises people who do not choose that. And in my experience, people are less likely to choose that if there are other valid choices available.
Households are built on mutual choice, not on the faulty economics of disability support. So, we need to create housing opportunities not predicated on shared living with other people living with disability.
Those arrangements have to change, including the ‘robust’ classification within SDA, which makes the spectacular error of assuming people are not capable of positive change with the right supports.
So, what might we assert at the state level? We know housing supply is tight, with a sledgehammer impact on housing affordability and stability. We need more houses.
But if we are to truly have an impact on the availability of housing for the disability community, we need to codify accessibility into all new housing. Most of the states and territories in Australia have set dates to implement the updated National Construction Code that adapted Liveable Housing Australia’s Silver level of accessibility.
South Australia is yet to set a date for implementation, and the building industry is reluctant to move promptly on it. We need to find our collective voice. Purple Orange currently works with several agencies in South Australia and interstate to push for an early date for the implementation of the updated standards. We welcome more agencies and voices to join that push, so please get in touch.
In closing, we will not successfully deliver on housing for people living with disability unless we deliver it in a way that brings an authentic sense of home. As a framework for thinking about that, we use our Model called Citizenhood Support. Within the Model, there are four domains we call the Four Capitals, which we assert are central to understanding and planning an investment in someone’s life, in this case housing.
So, applying this model, for a house to be truly a home it needs to reflect the person’s individuality. It needs to uphold self-determination and status. It needs to be a place of safety, of relaxation, of being oneself. It needs to facilitate the person to fully use the skills they currently have and to acquire new ones. It needs to offer material accessibility of course, and it needs to be close to community resources like neighbourhood stores, amenities, and transport.
Finally, it needs to be a platform for creating real relationships, where the person can welcome family and friends into their home, and build ordinary valued relationship with neighbours and neighbourhood. If we accomplish this, we are likely to see the person move into valued roles in community life, with all the fulfilment and safeguarding that brings.
The punchline: in resolving the supply of housing for people living with disability, our context must always be the creation of home, on the same basis as non-disabled people, and not the creation of a facility. It is this distinction that should drive future housing solutions for people living with disability.