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Specialist disability accommodation in the social housing sector: Policy and practice


Adam Crowe, Amity James, Gwyneth Peaty, Eleanor Malbon, Katie Ellis


This research explores the complex interaction between the Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) program and the social housing sector, including participants’ experience of accessing these homes and the extent to which the homes are equipped with assistive technology.

The SDA program, which delivers specialist housing support for Australians with extreme functional impairment or very high needs, is designed to attract private market investment; however, some Community Housing Providers are pausing their involvement as they are shouldering the financial risk associated with providing Specialist Disability Accommodation housing.

The SDA program is designed to give National Disability Insurance Scheme participants a level of choice in their housing options, balanced against the criteria used by the National Disability Insurance Agency to make their funding decisions.

Because of the complexity of the program and the subjective nature of decisions there is an apparent lack of transparency and consistency in SDA funding determinations, which has undermined both participants’ outcomes and confidence in funding developments by housing providers. For Community Housing Providers, delivering appropriate housing solutions becomes a challenge, increasing vacancy risks and ultimately affecting the delivery of future SDA dwellings.

Community Housing Providers have unique skills to offer through their extensive knowledge of the SDA program, as well as the expertise to produce good housing outcomes for tenants with complex needs. Their involvement ranges from supporting private investment through educating investors to providing compliance with the SDA program as a registered provider, to identifying tenants and providing tenancy management and support once a development is operational.

Policy development should further recognise the pivotal role of Community Housing Providers in the SDA program, particularly in regard to education, support, specialist tenancy management and the true cost of delivering and operating SDA.

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