Ensuring a supply of affordable and appropriate housing is crucial to the success of the NDIS

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will give people with a disability greater choice over many aspects of their lives including choices over housing arrangements. If someone wants to leave the family home or group care to live with people of their choosing for example, this will be possible under the NDIS. However, new evidence suggests that the shortage of affordable housing will limit the success of the NDIS which is due to be fully implemented around Australia in 2018.   

This week Every Australian Counts released a new report, A Place I Can Proudly Call Home, which reveals the many concerns of people with disabilities and their carers around the issue of appropriate housing. There are currently 6,381 young people with disabilities living in aged care facilities, and as of 2012 there were approximately 78,000 ageing parents caring for their children with a disability who were worried about what would happen to their children after they died.

A recent study by The University of New South Wales’ Social Policy and Research Centre has confirmed these serious concerns are warranted.  Associate Professor Karen Fisher, who led the study, says that the NDIS will give people greater control over where they live, but the lack of available housing is problematic.  

“The risk is that the NDIS does not address the same problem that other members of the public face – the shortage of affordable, suitable housing,” Associate Professor Fisher says.

Unsurprisingly, the study confirmed the importance of personal or familial wealth and networks, as well as formal programs that link people with housing assistance programs.

“For people without those resources or family connections, they continued to live in unsuitable places, such as boarding houses, or they had to wait until social housing or other scarce affordable housing was available.”

Associate Professor Fisher believes the broader issue of affordable housing needs to be addressed by state and federal governments, as this is not “just a question for people who have the benefit of NDIS funding or other disability support packages.”

If people who receive an NDIS package can’t find suitable housing, there are concerns that they will be forced to live in inappropriate conditions.

“They might be forced to live in unaffordable, unsafe or unsuitable housing such as sharing with people with whom they are incompatible, with consequences such as experiencing violence in their home,” according to Associate Professor Fisher.

Another concern is that people who don’t get an NDIS package could be further marginalised from access to the few affordable houses that are available, if people with packages are prioritised.

“The worst outcome would be if the shortage is not addressed, yet NDIS packages had the effect of increasing the number of people needing housing, thereby driving up competition even further.”

The importance of quality housing was reinforced by the study, which found that when people had genuine choice over who they lived with there were huge benefits in terms of happiness, affordability and social connection. The homelessness and housing sector therefore hopes that the NDIS will focus on enabling genuine choice in living arrangements as the NDIS continues to roll out.

For more in-depth analysis of this issue you can order a back copy of our June 2014 Parity magazine entitled Housing, Homelessness and Disability. Order back copies here.