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SDA: Location as First Consideration

Accessibility isn’t just what's inside a dwelling. Todd explains how we all gain from a location first focus.

By Todd Winther

Updated 15 Apr 202425 Jun 2021

The most famous saying in the real estate business is “Location, location, location!” The axiom is true because a property's location is arguably the most important characteristic that potential buyers consider when looking for a new place to live. NDIS participants are no different. Location should be one of the most important factors in designing accessible housing. An attractive location can generate high levels of demand, generating positive publicity and increasing the value of the property. Building accessible housing in the right location also has very particular benefits. An accessible location coupled with access inside the dwelling can allow participants to increase their independence, have more of an impact in their local community, and boost social interaction. The sector is finally moving away from a congruent housing model in which people with disability were members of exclusive, specifically designed communities sharing one building with people who had similar diagnoses. Developers should take advantage of this paradigm shift. Choosing the right location might appear to be rudimentary, but there are many factors property developers must consider to make the correct choice.


Promoting plan efficiency

People with disabilities rely on convenience. A dwelling in the right location can increase a participant’s independence and reduce their plan budget. The most obvious impact is in a participant’s transport budget if the property is near accessible and user-friendly public transport. It can also reduce a participant’s reliance on core support funding. Before moving last year, I had never been to a supermarket on my own. However, I can now pick up a few emergency items myself as the supermarket is within scooting distance of my apartment block. This freedom allows me to use my core support funding where I need it most: personal care.


Look beyond the surface

For people with disabilities, location preferences require more investigation than simply identifying a particular suburb or area to live. We have to think about what picking a location means forensically. Yes, everybody wants to be near the shops and close to transport. Still, an area might not have significant demand for accessible housing because the pathway to the bus stop or train station might be too narrow for a person in a wheelchair. A train or bus station may be only 200 metres away, but if the entrance to station has a steep ramp that is used for entrance and exit, people with push wheelchairs (and some older motorised ones) would never use that station, regardless of how convenient the transport. Alternatively, those with significant impairments who require constant medical attention may wish to live near a hospital or have accommodation that has more accessible access to emergency services, should serious medical intervention be required.


Access to services

How does a potential developer or investor turn these subjective ideas into concrete data? Luckily, the Department of Social Services has developed a tool to help those interested in the accessible housing market to identify the best places to build accessible properties. The NDIS Demand Map allows users to access information that tells them how many NDIS providers there are in a specific postcode. The map's data includes the number of NDIS participants in the area, the average amount of each participant's plan, what type of support the participants need, and the distribution of funding in the categories of their plans. However, the most helpful tool might be the workforce numbers in each suburb or town. The map identifies how many NDIS-registered employees are located in each postcode. The data also includes support workers and other specialist services that NDIS participants regularly use, including psychologists, physios, occupational therapists, and support coordinators.

Another essential source of data is Appendix P of the NDIA Quarterly Report released in June 2021. It provides the raw numbers that track demand for Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) dwellings, the types of dwellings already in the area, and the amount of SDA funding in the participant's budget.  

In terms of location, Table P1 breaks down the number of SDA participants in each state and each region. It makes for interesting reading because the numbers tell developers precisely where they should be targeting new accessible housing developments.

For a further breakdown of SDA data, sign up for our upcoming Market Update Webinar.

Why does this matter?

Property is a long-term business. The objective for any developer and investor is to ensure that the tenant occupies the building for the most extended time possible. The NDIS Demand Data pinpoints the factors that will encourage residents to stay in a property over the long term because it assesses the demand for the services the participants use in their plans. When developers and investors wish to target specific demographics of disability, the data can make finding potential occupants easier. For example, a developer may want to target people with high levels of physical impairment. In doing so, it may recognise that (generally speaking) this demographic will be more likely to use support workers, physios, and occupational therapists. Therefore, it is in the developer’s best interest to target postcodes that have high numbers of those professionals.


How participants can drive demand

As with anything related to the NDIS, the most critical question to ask is also the most obvious. What do the participants want? The best way to determine where, when, and how developers should build accommodation is to begin by asking people with disabilities themselves. The maxim of the disability rights movement stresses that “There's nothing about us, without us”. This slogan is especially true in the newly created participant-driven housing market where we can choose where we live on our terms.

Choosing a suitable location to build an accessible dwelling is far more critical and complex than it may first appear. Investors and developers need to assess where the demand for housing is, but they also have to balance that against the needs of potential residents. Qualitative and quantitative research is vital to understand this rapidly changing market and ensure a return on investment while mitigating the financial risks. 


Todd Winther

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