Over the past few months, the PDCN policy team has been collecting data and putting together a report on the housing experiences of our members. It’s safe to say what we found was dire, with very clear indicators that people with physical disability are struggling to access safe, secure and affordable housing, regardless of whether they rent or buy. Renters are a particularly disadvantaged demographic with many unable to implement the home modifications they need. At the same time, the NDIS does not appear to be able to support people to receive the home modifications they require.
It is apparent that the housing situation for people with physical disability needs to change across the board. The poor state of accessibility was apparent in all aspects of housing, from the rental market to buying a property, and in social housing and retirement villages. A massive 47% of respondents reported having to move homes due to accessibility issues at least once.
While accessibility is often talked about in the context of people’s own homes, we can also see that the lack of accessibility in homes has significant flow-on effects to friends and family members too. About 90% of homes will be visited by someone with accessibility needs at some point, and we heard many accounts of people declining to attend social occasions because other people’s houses are not accessible, or staying in the backyard during social gatherings because they could not physically go inside. To add to our first-hand member experiences, we found statistics from the ABS showed that visiting friends and family was the most avoided situation for people with disability.
The research we conducted makes it clear that there is a desperate need for mandated accessible housing standards in NSW. Silver Level Liveable Housing design has already been incorporated into the National Construction Code, incorporating key design features such as including a step-free, level entrance, a bathroom on the entry level, hobless showers, reinforced walls for future grab rail installations, and wider hallways and doorframes. However, the NSW Government has decided to opt out of mandating these requirements for new homes in this state. This has left people continuing to be forced into compromises around where they live, how much they pay for housing and how they live in their own homes.
It isn’t good enough for people with disability to have to figure out themselves how to make their own homes accessible, to fork out vast amounts of money for retrofitting modifications, or to wait for years for suitable living standards, as was found to be the case for many of our respondents.
Our Housing Report is a sobering read, but it is also an important insight into the experiences of housing within our community. With accessible and affordable housing becoming an increasingly mainstream issue, we are optimistic that a change is on the way, and that next time a report on the housing experiences of people with physical disability is written, it will be a positive one.