Better data on housing supply and demand was critical if the accommodation needs of people living with a disability are to be met, CHIA CEO Peta Winzar told a disability conference in Sydney this month.

At the National Disability Services’ ‘Outside the Box’ conference, Ms Winzar said the $700 million Specialist Disability Accommodation initiative was significant and ‘we need to get it as right as we can’.

This cannot happen without the Commonwealth Government taking a more active role in collecting and sharing data on SDA demand, consumer preferences, available supply –  and the pipeline of future supply, Ms Winzar said.

‘The factors impacting on the supply of Specialist Disability Housing are the same factors that impact on the supply of housing overall in Australia’, she said

  • Land – the capital costs of land create high barriers to entry for developers looking to deliver SDA. It is hard to deliver an affordable product when land costs are so high
  • Finance – the cost and availability of finance for SDA developments is also a big factor. Banks do not like to take risks with unfamiliar products and markets
  • Intelligence – a missing piece of the puzzle is decent information on the demand and preferences of consumers with disability; without this, it’s hard to build SDA product that meets consumers’ needs
  • Price – the price signals to the construction industry to build disability appropriate housing are weak and uncertain.

Discussions about disability housing supply and demand tend to focus on Specialist Disability Accommodation, but we also need to make mainstream housing supply more responsive to the needs and preferences of people with disability through good universal design, Ms Winzar said.

This won’t happen quickly. There are eight million homes in Australia and every year we build another 200,000 or so, even if all those new homes meet universal design standards, it will take a long, long time before we see a significant improvement in the nature of our housing stock.