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SDA : Your own home, your new future

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Woman sitting in a wheelchari about to get a set of house keys

Thinking about applying for Specialist Disability Housing for yourself or your family member?

Worried about the time and energy you’ll need to do this?

Across Australia, almost 16,000 NDIS participants have succeeded in building new futures in specially designed residences that meet their needs.

You can achieve this goal too, and the rewards will be worth the effort!

What is Specialist Disability Housing (SDA)?

SDA is housing that has been specially designed or modified to suit the needs of people with disabilities who have an 'extreme functional impairment' or 'very high support needs'.

Residences might be:

  • stand-alone homes,
  • apartments, or
  • duplexes

All SDA housing providers must be registered with the NDIS, and there are guidelines around the number of participants in each dwelling (for example, a house can accommodate no more than five residents).

SDA dwellings also must be designed to meet one of four levels of accessibility, to match the needs of residents. These levels are:

  1. Improved Liveability
  2. Fully Accessible 
  3. Robust Construction
  4. High Physical Support

You can find out more about these levels here.  

Can I use my own home as an NDIS SDA?

As an NDIS participant, you can also use your SDA budget for your own home.

To do this, you will need to:

  1. register as an SDA provider,
  2. enrol your property and
  3. make sure it complies with SDA rules.

You can live there by yourself, with your partner and children, or share with other participants. 

Does SDA include Supported Independent Living (SIL)

SDA refers to the building where you will live, or ‘bricks and mortar’.

You’ll also need supports to enable you to live independently in your new home.

This in-home support, called Supported Independent Living (SIL), is funded separately and you apply for this separately.

What are the benefits of SDA?

  • You have a home of your own
  • You can live independently in a purpose-built home that suits your needs
  • You can choose whom you live with
  • You have a secure tenancy, without fear of your lease being terminated by your landlord, as in the open rental market 
  • You can choose who supports you in your home, and you have more choice and control about how these supports are provided to you

Who is eligible for SDA under the NDIS?

SDA is designed for people with very high and complex support needs.

Only around 6% of NDIS participants will meet eligibility criteria. Participants must be aged over 18 years.

Speak to your LAC, Planner and/or Support Coordinator to check your eligibility for SDA.

Other housing options are available to NDIS participants who don’t meet these criteria.

How do you apply for SDA?

No, it's not a simple process. You'll need to be prepared to wait for the outcome you want. 

You’ll need a team of people around you. Reach out to your LAC or Planner, Support Coordinator, SDA housing providers, allied health clinicians and other NDIS service providers who can support you and guide you through the process.

To get through this process, the most important thing you can do is build a team of the right people around you. You can't do it on your own!

As I was preparing Amelia's application, I was delighted to find people along the way who were encouraging and supportive, and who came up with the positive solutions we needed. 

The principles of SDA are inspiring to many people in the field. They will be keen to help you succeed!


This is how you apply for SDA to be part of your NDIS plan:

Step 1: Set out your goals 

IMPORTANT: Make sure you have ‘independent living’ as your first goal in your next NDIS plan.

If you don’t have this goal in your plan, your dreams will not get off the ground.
Example goal: ‘I want to live independently in the community in housing that meets my requirements with the paid supports I need to reach my potential.’

Then write down more goals that focus on reaching this main goal. 
Example goal: ‘I want to explore more appropriate housing options’.

This goal will enable you to receive funding for investigating housing solutions in your Plan.

This funding will cover:

  1. A Support Coordinator to help you through the process of obtaining the reports you will need, looking for the right place to live, and putting together a housing plan.
  2. The assessments by allied health professionals that are necessary for your application.

Hint for family members and carers: 
Provide a Carer Statement to submit with your participants’ plan.

Describe how caring for your family member impacts you, in terms of your health and well-being, and your capacity to participate in social and economic life.

With your family member living independently, you will still be able to provide them with love and support when needed, but your relationship will be more like that of mother/father/sibling than full-time carer.

Step 2:  Get your Housing Plan together

1. Appoint a Support Coordinator

When you get your plan back, and your funding for investigating housing solutions is approved, your first job is to find a Support Coordinator.

Find one who knows how to navigate through the SDA application process and prepare a Housing Plan.

Contact several in your area, and ask them about their experience with SDA. You may already have a Support Coordinator, but you can change if you think someone else can support you better.

2. Obtain required assessments

The next task is to obtain all those assessments that will form a big part of your application.

These assessments are needed because they will inform the NDIS that SDA is the most suitable housing option for you or your family member, and which level of accessibility you will need.

Your Support Coordinator will identify suitable clinicians, and organise these assessment meetings with you or your family member and relevant others.

Assessments may be needed from a physiotherapist, speech and occupational therapists, a behaviour management specialist, a psychologist, and/or other relevant clinicians. Assessments may take place in your own home, as well as in short-term accommodation or settings. 

3. Investigate SDA housing options and make your choice

While the assessments are taking place, you can do some research into the SDA providers in your preferred area/s, and see what they have to offer.

A good place to start is the Housing Hub, a website that connects people with disabilities with a broad range of housing options for people with disabilities.

Talk to providers. Tell them what your needs are, including the level of accessibility you require. Ask about any projects that are currently underway or planned for the future. You may not be able to get what you want right away, but there may be something in the pipeline that is riWhght for you. Express your interest to the provider. 

Get to know your SDA provider.  

Our relationship with the provider began before construction of Amelia's apartment was finished. I was then able to keep track of  the building work and the schedule for completion. I got to know the CEO, and I spoke with him about his vision for the build, and for Specialist Disability Accommodation in general. 

This gave me confidence that we were doing the right thing for my daughter, Amelia.


4. Request a plan review and submit your application

With all this information gathered, it’s now time for your Support Coordinator to put together your Housing Plan. This Housing Plan template, developed by the Summer Foundation, will give you an idea of the detail required in the housing plan.

When the housing plan is complete, you will be ready to submit your SDA application.

Waiting for the outcome can be nerve-wracking! But if you’ve gone through the process thoroughly, you will most likely be successful. 

In your new plan, you can include goals that focus on transitioning to life in your new home, and so request Capacity Building funding for improving your daily living skills.

I was elated and relieved when we finally received notification from the NDIS that Amelia's SDA funding was approved. The wait was over.

Not long after, Amelia and I visited the apartments. The building was just about ready for accupancy. The moment when we unlocked the front door and Amelia entered her new home for the first time was unforgettable!


What about tenancy arrangements and rent?

Because SDA works similarly to a private rental agreement, you will sign a lease with the SDA provider or their tenancy manager.

Like all tenants, you'll also pay rent for your accommodation. SDA rental is called Reasonable Rent Contribution. It consists of:

· 25% of the tenant’s Disability Support Pension

· 25% of any pension supplement received by the tenant

· 100% of Commonwealth Rent Assistance. You can speak to Centrelink about obtaining for Rent Assistance - this is a simple process.

Your rent covers your tenancy, but not your in-home living expenses such as food and groceries.

What about your in-home supports?

You’ll now need to apply for Supported Independent Living (SIL) funding. This will provide you with paid support to help you with daily tasks and personal care.

SIL is funded separately to give you more choice about how you receive your in-home support.

There are several ways of organising SIL support in SDA housing:

  • some SDA providers also deliver SIL services within their properties
  • some SDA providers have arrangements with a different organisation to provide SIL services within their properties
  • in all other cases, residents can choose their preferred SIL provider.

Talk to your SDA provider about how SIL is managed in their residences.

Your SIL provider will ask you about your wants and needs, and provide a quote to the NDIS for these services.

You can find out more about SIL in our MyCareSpace resources.

Look forward to your new future!

It’s a long path, and it takes determination to get there. But as more people with disabilities are accessing SDA, the process is becoming easier to navigate. It could be your time now to take this step forward. 

Amelia is one of the thousands of Australians with disabilities who are now enjoying life the SDA way.

Read about her journey in her pictorial e-book, Making a home away from home: Amelia’s SDA story.


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