DEC newsLifting the veil on the viability of developing Specialist Disability Accommodation

Apr 18, 2024

There’s undoubted excitement for anyone learning they’ve been successful in gaining funds for Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) in their NDIS plan – especially if current living arrangements impede independence or attaining goals.

And what brings us the greatest satisfaction is managing the process for a person with disability to live in a home, newly built and customised to their needs, in a location of their choice.

The beauty of DEC Housing’s model is the collaborative engagement between participant and provider. We’ll only purchase land that both of us agree is suitable for the new home, and building doesn’t start until plans are agreed.

Of course, like many other things NDIS-related, the steps in between can be fraught with complexity, for both participant and SDA provider! 

The method we use to find appropriate land and build is a stepped one, influenced by several factors. There’s one necessary evil we can’t avoid…

Understanding the SDA budget build up

The overall budget we need to work within is based on a participant’s: 

•    SDA category (Improved Liveability, Fully Accessible, Robust, High Physical Support)

•    their SDA share status (sole occupancy, share with 1 or 2 others)

•    the approved dwelling type (apartment, villa/duplex/townhouse or house) plus;

•    the approved location. 

The approved location is a geographic region based on ABS Statistical Area Level 4 areas (SA4). Each SA4 has a ratio applied by the NDIA, essentially providing greater or lesser funding to develop in that area. While participants aren’t held hostage to their approved location, DEC must be mindful of the area the participant’s preferred location falls within so we can correctly calculate the level of funding available to claim.

DEC will take out a loan for the land and construction, which is serviced by us claiming tenant SDA funds over time. We can’t receive a lump sum, so tenancy management and ensuring their SDA category etc is suitable, is essential for us. 

In our financial model, the land budget is the amount left after factoring in the estimated construction cost, interest rates, a proportion of time the dwelling may be untenanted, and other items like maintenance over 20 years. 

Being creative and pragmatic

As a registered charity, DEC can focus on creating homes truly desired by participants; we’re not part of a development group whose first objective is making a set return on its investment.

That said, we can’t operate in the red, and unfortunately not every type of project is financially viable. The hard truth is that SDA funds aren’t open ended - not all desirable home features, locations or home types may be affordable. 

That’s where we’ll work through different options with the participant and their supporters. We might look at different locations, different house features or, in the case of single occupant dwellings that don’t stack up, different living arrangements.

Making single occupant living a reality

Unfortunately there’s rarely a scenario where we can afford to provide a single occupant unit, on its own, even though single occupancy may be noted in the Plan.

However, that’s where we will look to coupling a unit with a two or three resident house, on a larger block, enabling us to draw on a greater total pool of participant SDA funds. Similar could apply if a two or three resident house wouldn’t otherwise stack up on its own.

Or, we may present the option to live in what we call a ‘2-in-1’ design, essentially providing private single occupant living, under one roof, with a shared support worker room. We’re finding there’s growing interest in this concept for people who have been awarded shared occupancy but would benefit, or prefer, to live alone.

Implications of the NDIS Review

While the future for Improved Liveability funding has not been confirmed, we anticipate, like other changes to the NDIS, there will be an honouring of existing decisions so participants who already have Improved Liveability funding will retain their funding, perhaps by a different name. 

Yes, that’s yet to be seen, but if a participant has funding for Improved Liveability SDA in their current Plan, we’re not willing to sit on our hands if we have any choice.  

Ready to begin?Get in touch today.