The importance of including disability housing in COVID-19 stimulus
There is a strong case for governments to prioritise housing for people with disabilities in new infrastructure programs in response to COVID-19. The Aged Care Royal Commission’s interim report in 2019 called for immediate action to move young people out of aged care. The urgency around this has only grown with the impact of COVID-19.
The problem is there are insufficient supplies of specialist disability accommodation (SDA), especially in Western Australia. A report by the Summer Foundation found WA has the biggest shortfall among the larger states of disability accommodation, estimated to be 1300 places.
The industry in WA has responded to the challenge and there has been a noticeable increase in investment in SDA in the last 12 months. It’s crucial therefore, that much-needed supplies of new Specialist Disability Housing in WA are not curtailed by the economic fall-out of the COVID-19 shut-down. This is absolutely necessary in regional WA where the shortage of modern SDA is most acute.
Groups like the Australian Institute of Architects WA Chapter have made sensible suggestions for inclusion of SDA in new capital works programs by the State Government in response to the shut-down. This is particularly relevant because there is NDIS funding support for SDA tenants. Local governments can also play a supportive role in enabling more disability accommodation in planning processes.
The Royal Commission also identified the lack of accurate supply and demand projections to stimulate more private investment in SDA. This is particularly important for institutional investors like superannuation funds that are keen to participate. There is potentially a role for the industry and the State Government to partner in preparing this information.
Doing more community building is one of the good things to come out of COVID-19 and enabling disability accommodation is a great place to start.
Image by D-Max Photography, supplied by Dale Alcock Projects.