The Having a Home Forum on Housing Options for People with Disability – report
On Friday, 16 November 2018, the ACT Office for Disability brought together people from throughout the ecosystem of housing for people with disability for a day of exchange of ideas and opportunities for the ACT. The Having a Home Forum on Housing Options for People with Disability (the Forum) brought together people with disability, families and carers, community services, financiers and innovators.
Rachel Stephen-Smith MLA, Minister for Disability opened the Forum with a warm welcome and recognition of the importance of this conversation for the community and the commitment of the ACT government to continue to support people with disability, their families, service providers and the community to find cross-sector solutions.
The Forum consisted of three sessions: a morning session focusing on big picture issues around bricks, mortar, supply and demand; an afternoon session sharing experiences of what’s working already across Australia; and an evening “World Café” session inviting participants to engage in round-table discussions with experts in the field.
The Forum received more than 180 registrations for attendance and 100% of the Forum evaluation survey respondents evaluated the day as “worth attending”, containing “useful information”.
Session 1: Bricks, mortar, supply and demand
This session was for all community members, including people with disability and their families interested in learning more about Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) funding, ACT Government policy levers and the experiences of interstate counterparts. The information focused on the role of developers, builders, investors, financiers, lawyers, community housing providers, disability specialist providers.
1.1 Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA)
Presented by Toni McInnes, National Disability Insurance Agency
- Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) refers to accommodation for participants who require specialist housing solutions to assist with the delivery of supports that cater for their extreme functional impairment and/or very high support needs. The SDA Rules (2016) outline the criteria to be eligible for SDA, criteria to be a provider of SDA and the enrolment of a dwelling
- SDA is expected to be for about 6% (~28,000 participants) at full scheme – there is no cap on this number. At 30 June 2018, nationally there were 8,858 NDIS participants with SDA in their plan, 1679 dwellings enrolled as SDA and 692 NDIS registered providers approved for the SDA registration group.
- $700M each year is the estimated cost of funding the provision of SDA.
- A review of the SDA Framework has been undertaken by DSS (expected December 2018) to assess if the framework meets the intended objectives – for participants and providers. The major focus for the review includes pricing and the impact on supply of new SDA.
1.2 Working with SDA funding to deliver housing for people with disability
Presented by Dan McLennan, CEO, Summer Housing (Melbourne)
- Today in Australia, there are approximately 6,245 young people in aged care across Australia. Younger people living in nursing homes.
- Summer Housing’s goal is to commission at least 300 new dwellings for people with disability; and build broader industry capability through an open-source approach to intellectual property. Current pipeline of 120 plus SDA dwellings across VIC, NSW, QLD and ACT.
- Integrated mainstream apartment living that has appropriately designed, well located apartments represent an excellent housing option which efficiently balances independence and onsite support, promotes social inclusion and economic participation.
- A 10 plus 1 model pioneered by Summer Foundation on its Belmont Housing Project which means 10 apartments scattered across apartment developments (one on each floor) which are converted to SDA dwellings; and 1 x 1 bedroom apartment in the complex as a support workers hub / onsite accommodation. This promotes inclusive design in new developments of apartments and is also scalable from a procurement and funding standpoint.
1.3 The current landscape of disability housing in the ACT
Yvette Berry MLA, Minister for Housing reiterated the ACT Government’s commitment to facilitating access to a variety of housing options for people with disability in the ACT community.
Louise Gilding (Housing ACT) spoke about the consultation process to develop the new ACT Housing Strategy in 2018 including the Affordable Housing Consultative Group. Brooke Yates, Manager, Housing ACT gave a visual walk-through of an example property that shows the layout and fittings of ACT Housing properties.
Elizabeth Howell (Environment, Planning, Sustainable Development Directorate) presented on the policy landscape for housing in the ACT, including the ACT Housing Strategy. Elizabeth noted that in 2019, a second round of projects will be funded from the Housing Innovation Fund and include funding for pilot projects looking at the home-sharing model and increasing supply of affordable accommodation for people with a disability.
1.4 Legal and financing options
Presented by Tony Rutherford, Moores (Sydney).
Tony covered three main topics: funding sources; different development models; and options for individuals not eligible for SDA. Tony asserted that the current lending environment is difficult as financial institutions are cautious and risk assessment is more complex.
There were four different development models discussed:
- SDA projects backed by institutional (equity) funds
- Blended SDA projects with developer equity / bank debt or mixed-equity (family and investor money)
- Transferring existing residents previously funded under state programs
- Non-SDA models
Options outside of SDA were also discussed including: interest free loans to individuals (e.g. Project Independence); disability service providers; blended models and build-to-rent schemes.
1.5 Learning from the Hunter Experience
Presented by Kirk Robinson BFIN investment bank (Sydney)
- Kirk was involved in the establishment of Home4Life Limited, a special purpose vehicle created as a joint venture to deliver 70 new group homes across NSW specifically designed for up to 350 disabled tenants who are eligible to receive Specialist Disability Accommodation funding (SDA) from the NDIS.
- The NSW Government ran a tender process to identify a Housing Provider who could finance, design, build, fit out and provide property management services for 70 new group homes, compliant with SDA requirements.
- Home4Life was successful in the tender process and has acquired the land sites and has prepared construction designs which are now sitting with several regional builders ready to commence construction.
- Home4Life owns the properties and is committed to using them for disability housing for the long term.
- Home4Life takes rental demand and vacancy risk on the group homes.
NOTE: Please note at approximately the 20 minute mark, the presenter talks about $125,000 per dwelling being available to individuals through the ACT Housing Strategy Innovation Fund – however this information is inaccurate, and has been subsequently corrected. The accurate information is that Round 2 of the Affordable Housing Innovation Fund (as a part of the ACT Housing Strategy) will include a category allocating a total of $125,000 for projects that increase the supply of affordable accommodation suitable for people with a disability. This funding is intended to provide seed funding for pilot project/s that may be suitable for scaling or replication, rather than necessarily providing direct support for an individual’s construction project.
Session 2: What’s working already?
This afternoon session used a fast-paced “pitch” approach to hear about a wide range of models, services and approaches.
2.1 Housing Support Coordinator Services + preparing for change - Court Walters, Araluen Services (Melbourne)
Court Walters presented on Investigating Housing Solutions (IHS) coordination support services provided through Araleun services (Melbourne). The program includes preparing housing plans, working with allied health, interpreting the SDA rules and developing a report to test eligibility for SDA.
2.2 The Vibe – using existing equity to build SDA dwellings - Presented by Elaine and Brian Michaels and LiveBetter (Wagga Wagga)
Elaine and Brian Michaels describe their journey with daughter Kristen, to build an accessible SDA dwelling in Wagga, including the process of finding and considering housemates, financing, SDA and working with Liveable Housing Australia through the design process.
2.3 Investing for Security of Tenure - Hugh Packard, CEO, Valmar Support Services
Hugh Packard described a simple model to facilitate purchasing of homes for people with disability either independently or with house mates – where each participant contributes to the deposit for the house and then the rent is calculated to cover the mortgage repayments. The residents of the house are then able to accrue the capital gains and realise those if their circumstances changed. SDA and SIL packages can then be utilised to support modifications and supports to promote independent living.
2.4 Using technology to find a home and housemates - Neil Skipper, Managing Director, Havelock Housing Association
Neil Skipper spoke about Havelock Housing’s Disability Housing Hub, established with funding from the ACT Government. The hub is a forum where people with disability, their families and carers can access what is required https://www.havelock.asn.au/disability-housing-hub/
2.5 Mixed tenancy and creating community - Sally Richards (parent of Jackson West) and Eric Thauvette, CEO, Hartley
Sally and Eric presented on the foundation and creation of the Benambra Intentional Community including a co-residency model and partnership with Hartley Lifecare.
2.6 Innovative models for living in your own home - Dougie Herd, Executive Director, Community Connections
Dougie described his experience in the Australian housing market, having moved from the UK, and that the voluntary building codes in contrast to the UK where accessible design requirements have been made compulsory.
2.7 Safeguards - Sally Gibson, Director, ACT Community Services Directorate
Sally presented on the legal and regulatory aspects of safeguards that should be kept in mind when seeking accommodation or services for people with disability, including the importance of a clear agreement with the housing provider that covers tenancy, occupancy and purchase/ownership agreement including provisions if you wish to change your support provider or housing arrangement.
2.8 Wraparound SDA development services - Owen Jourdian, Illowra Services (Victoria)
Owen described the work of Illowra Projects for helping families become the developers for individual or family home ownership including advice, person-centred design, project management and property management.
Session 3: How do we get to having a home?
The evening “World Café” session was an opportunity for Forum participants to step themselves through the “housing pathways” that are relevant for them, bringing together a wide range of participants and experts, including people with disability and their families – covering the many elements of planning and preparing to have a home.
The aims of this session was to:
- Provide an opportunity to discuss the issues raised during the day in further depth.
- Note key areas of discussion for follow-up or to inform future work.
- Provide information to attendees, including people with disability, their families and allies who were not able to attend the earlier Forum sessions due to work/life commitments.
There were seven topics to choose from including SDA, affordability, safeguards, designing and building, ‘what is a home?’, housing for connection and community.
The notes below outline topics discussed at each “World Café” table.
Theme: Specialist Disability Accommodation
Hosted by: Toni McInnes, National Disability Insurance Agency
- Eligibility for SDA
- Complaints mechanisms
- Planning conversation to establish SIL/SDA suitability.
- Quality of life for participants in SDA and the importance of quality of life for participants not eligible for SDA.
- Some people are eligible for SDA because their accommodation has been carried over from pre-NDIS arrangements. Housing ACT is likely to own majority of these properties that will become SDA, under these special and specific circumstances. Not necessarily for other SDA dwellings.
Hosted by: Wendy Prowse, Beyond Bank
- If DSP is ongoing then it can be included as income (evidence/statement from Centrelink is required).
- 6 months statement of all income is required for a home loan + expenses
- The ‘borrower” needs to afford the liability. Parent can provide a cash contribution +/- be a guarantor using equity in their own home or other assets.
- Have a loan approved before looking to purchase the house
- Parent equity loan – parents are guarantor for the loan
- Land rent scheme:
- Parents can be a co-borrower so their name can be put on the title.
Deb Foulcher, Housing ACT
Elizabeth Howell, Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate
- Q: is there capacity to have less land tax for building accessible housing and could families be eligible for that?
- Q: how is income measured when parents have full time careers?
- Transition from full time carers to individual living – housing affordability.
- For those with complex needs – in many cases accommodation needs to be custom built.
- Various models now available for housing (around 10). Depending on individual needs + circumstances.
- Shared equity model, purchasing model
- ACT Housing Strategy: is there a requirement in place to build affordable housing on public land released by ACT Government?
- Discussions are happening around land tax for community housing.
- There is high rent in Canberra.
- How do we find out about options for housing and affordability? New website ACT Government Homes + Housing
Sally Gibson, Social Housing Registrar
- Be clear in writing upfront about what is expected, and what the complaints process.
- Conflict of interest between being a support provider & a tenant provider
- Expectation that NDIS will assist but its new and working itself out.
- What safeguards are there for people who don’t quality for SDA but still need platinum standard?
What safeguards should we pay particular attention to?
- Clear complaints procedure
- Official visitors
- But no thought people living in private rental.
Theme: What is home?
Hosted by: Wayne Browne, Carers ACT
- Focus on bringing back to values – the values that shape their decision ranking and prioritising
- Sometimes get so focused on practicalities that don’t consider what really matters to person.
- Once you have decided what your priorities for home are - that document you can take to provider and help decide what housing model will work for you.
- This model goes across all these issues – can encompass different aspects. If people have set idea of what looks like from own experience how do explore other possibilities?
- That is why this model of citizenship support is useful to explore values and rethink ideas.
- Future Planning - parents with concerns about what will happen to their offspring with disability, but confused by all these different models they hear about.
Theme: Design and build – house by house
Hosted by: Leanne Broad, Senior Occupational Therapist, Housing ACT
- Could the ACT Government move ahead of Commonwealth in requirement of all new builds to consider gold standard liveable design?
- Will there be “minimum accessible” standards by 2020 into construction code?
- Liveable Australia architects’ guidelines – read + use in plans
Theme: Housing for connection and community
Sally Richards, parent and advocate
Eric Thauvette, Hartley Lifecare
Neil Skipper, Havelock Housing
How do we get on the list – get connected to Havelock?
- Contact via website, email, call up.
- Havelock model – social housing provider 25% of income – waiting list and vacancies. Need to be compatible with other tenants and models of care. Will need to be happy with SIL provider
- Relationship between families.
- How food is organised etc.
Finding & matching tenants can be trickiest part.
- Number of tenants can be tricky SIL works better with 2 or 4.
- Dynamics work better with 3
- 4 people living together need 5 bed property.
Gaps and challenges – themes from the Forum
Throughout the day, it was acknowledged that energy, determination and financial resources it takes to secure a home can be challenging to sustain – even with the support provided by government and community sectors. Throughout the day, there were several challenges that were raised by community members participating in the Forum – including the following:
|Difficult system to navigate|
Supply and Demand
It is a difficult system to navigate and the options for private housing, support and are difficult to access. Where are those who can navigate the system and support families and people with disability as they research options and choices.
There is a mismatch between the need for SDA and other forms of housing for people with disability and the meagre supply available in the ACT.
Permanency of tenure
It has been historically difficult to connect people with disability with developers, financiers, designers and each other.
There is an urgency in needing to address how people with disability in the ACT and their families and carers can access housing that presents permanency of tenure.
The need for compulsory national standards for accessible design to support the development and supply of suitable stock.
What are the financing options – for parents, with support, in partnership with a developer?
Over the course of the day, the Office for Disability committed to a number of actions to support continued discussions and the open sharing of information, experience and resources to support people with disabilities, their families and carers to make informed choices in finding a home.
Since the Having a Home forum on 16 November 2018, the ACT Office for Disability has:
- Uploaded information about the forum onto the OfD website https://www.communityservices.act.gov.au/disability_act/housing_and_tenancy, including the edited filmed presentations, PowerPoint presentations and this report of the day’s discussions.
- Added attendee emails to the OfD newsletter mailing list.
- Explored a range of options for families to continue the conversation about housing options, for example, through the use of existing facebook groups such as NDIS find-a-housemate or Disability, Housing and Living Independently – noting the challenge of information accuracy and relevance for the ACT in open forums such as these.
- Convened a round-table discussion of ACT based Disabled Person and Family Organisations (DPFOs) to discuss options for progressing peer-to-peer housing awareness raising.
- Discussed the possibility of future seminars/workshops/webinars – hosted by community sector organisations or of subsequent Having a Home forums in future years
- Continued with internal ACT Government work to progress positive housing outcomes for people with disability in the ACT.