Recent reforms in the disability sector through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will allocate funding to individuals who will be able to exercise greater control over its use. More people with disabilities will be able to access support to move from congregate care, group homes, their parents’ home or unstable housing to more independent living arrangements.

The researchers analysed ABS data and interviewed staff of disability and housing agencies. They also interviewed people with disabilities—most with individualised funding packages—who moved, or planned to live more independently in the community. Interviews were conducted in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.

Reasons for moving home were varied, but many wanted to live independently in housing that met their preferences for design and location. A key barrier they faced was lack of affordable housing. Those that had succeeded in accessing social housing had done so through special programs, or by being classified at risk of homelessness. Those achieving ownership received family financial support or utilised shared equity arrangements. Those in private rental had established relationships with landlords. Sharing was also a feature in private rental and ownership options.

Where people with disabilities had been able to move to preferred housing in a suitable location (close to family, public transport and services), they experienced positive outcomes such as feelings of independence, social participation, and improvements in physical and mental health. Those in social housing experienced more secure and affordable tenancies, while those owning their own homes (including shared equity arrangements) experienced pride and sense of security. Those in private rental, by contrast, were less secure and experienced affordability stress.

Detailed housing policies and strategies will be needed to respond to the NDIS. New supplies of affordable housing are a priority, but so also is adaptable design to enable people with disabilities to age in place. Home sharing is a useful strategy to pool support funding and would improve overall utilisation of housing stock, but provisions to enable people to choose flatmates and preserve privacy will be important.

The study highlights the benefits of choice and flexibility in funding, but also recognises that strategies will also need to integrate sufficient advocacy, information and tenancy management assistance to prepare and support people into new living arrangements. Separate program funding to build capacity in formal and informal support networks will also be required.

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