The already stressed housing sector of Queensland is being challenged further by the four guiding principles of the NDIS: Rights, Choice, Inclusion/Diversity, and Control. More than 100 000 Australians are homeless, and many more are struggling to meet housing repayments or their rent. Affordable housing is lacking, even before considering the extra challenges faced by people with a disability; we are more likely to be renters than those without disabilities already, and must face the reality of landlords with no legal obligation to modify their premises to make it more accessible.
It appears that the three main issues people with disability are facing in the search for accessible, comfortable housing – lower income, services limited by location, and the reluctance of those to leave their accommodation where they have had modifications made for accessibility. Hopefully, the NDIS will encourage a crop of new or existing service providers in more locations, including regionally, and the various employment initiatives under the scheme can help to increase the average income of people with a disability. In the coming years the NDIS has the potential to create a large cultural shift in the way people with disability are treated and valued in the community, and can help to indirectly address housing issues this way. However, for many people in Queensland, the wait for the NDIS can seem near endless, and there is a pressing need for accommodation issues to be addressed before the roll-out occurs here in around two years time. Is there something the NDIS can offer to make the wait easier?
Depending on the support plan, some participants will be able to access some funding for home modifications, some for specialised housing, and for a lucky few in private rentals, rent assistance will increase. However, it looks like these will be exceptions, not rules. By and large, the NDIS as it stands offers very little in terms of housing support, and faces the challenges of a market massively undersupplied in terms of accessible housing. There are trials of housing pilots in some areas, but the staggered release of the scheme means that most Australians struggling now won’t be able to access them. But it’s not all bad news. In some ways, Queensland is lucky to be late to the NDIS party, as we can see what has and hasn’t worked in trial sites across the country. The scheme has the potential to change and adapt under the influence of so many lobby groups and participants, so by the time it comes to Queensland, there may very well be more housing solutions in place. We are also seeing a big surge in local and grassroots movements, advocating for better housing and seeking ways to change the cultural landscape and housing market to be more accessible.
This is a significant time for people with disability in Queensland, as groups like the Disability Housing Futures Working group work hard to produce reports on the current and projected housing situations. Co-ops like the Independent Youth Housing Group, though not disability specific, are inclusive and working hard to provide discounted housing for those in need – they already have 11 properties on the northside of Brisbane and an internal savings plan, where contributions from the rent can go toward repairs, individual equipment or even travel. Organisations in different states, like Summer House in NSW, offer a fully accessible apartment complex with staff in attendance, and even private developers are building with more accessibility in mind than before. Perhaps a sign of good things to come?
As we wait on more reports, and try to plan for a rapidly changing future under the NDIS, grassroots organisations are fighting for change and working on building accessible, affordable housing solutions for people with disability. Perhaps as we wait, we should look to our neighbours, and encourage more shared projects on a community level, so that the NDIS can complement and work for us by the time it rolls out in Queensland.
 Disability Housing Futures Working Group final report due late 2016