Getting Serious About an SDA Market

The NDIS Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) policy has been a complicated enigma for the sector. Communication to the sector about this huge opportunity has been little more than a series of technical papers and some legalistic rules.

Now for the first time, there is a coherent vision for where the community is going with SDA and an explanation of who needs to be around to the table for this journey.

The Summer Foundation and PricewaterhouseCoopers have teamed up to write a report that clearly sets out the SDA policy, and that shows the importance of partnerships in this sector. The report also provides a series of lessons learnt from other markets that have grown or changed quickly, as well as a framework of what to look out for as the market matures.

The paper NDIS Specialist Disability Accommodation: Pathway to a mature market is available here. It’s a good read: if you are serious about SDA put aside half an hour to work your way through it.

We have summarised what we think are the key takeaways in four points:

 

#1: Partnerships, partnership, partnerships

From Day 1 of the SDA policy, DSC has said that the SDA is only going to work when the housing, construction, finance and disability support players get together and work together. A focus of all our SDA workshops has been creating cross-sector partnerships.

The Summer Foundation-PwC paper drives this point home. The report spells out the different roles and skills needed to ‘Build and Manage’ SDA, compared with ‘Financing’ and ‘Delivering Support.'

This helps to better unpack the different people needed to get an SDA project off the ground. It includes exploring the role of LHA assessors and access consultants – a point DSC emphasised in the last round of workshops.

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#2: The challenge is really (really!) big

We all know that there are lots of big numbers in SDA – 28,000 people, $700 million in funding, $5 billion in investment. PwC’s involvement in showing the sheer size of the market is a significant step forward in understanding why financiers are critical to this conversation.

At the end of the day, we now know that someone needs to come up with $5 billion in loans and investment into SDA over the next five years. The community sector cannot do this alone. If SDA providers cannot convince investors and lenders to finance SDA, the policy won’t be delivering housing for anything close to 28,000 people.

For those still unsure about what this all means for banks and investors, the paper spells out what financiers will be looking for to become more comfortable to invest on a larger scale.

 

#3: Governments are still in the game, but with a new role

Government traditionally bank rolled the development of housing for people with disability. Through grants, they determined not just locations of properties, but the design and even who lives where.

The SDA policy changes the role of government. It is moving from command and control to regulate and incentivise. The Summer Foundation PwC paper calls out the role of government in ‘Regulating and Governing.'

The role of government is changing slowly. During this transition period, there’s a real contradiction with governments having one foot in each camp. This is especially the case in Victoria where the government is still heavily regulating the SDA market.

The role of governments as regulators requires nuance and a very different skill set. It certainly requires deep engagement between government and the sector for feedback loops. The report looks at other sectors like community housing and banking where this level of sophistication has taken decades to develop. We are certainly a long way for this kind of maturity in the SDA market.

 

#4: Signposts of maturity

What does a market moving towards maturity look like? The Summer Foundation PwC paper examines nine features we should all be keeping an eye on to monitor the progress of this new market.

Many of these features reflect things that DSC clients, workshop attendees and newsletter readers tell us regularly. Better information about demand for SDA and information on new SDA supply.

Other important signs of a maturing market are a coordinated network and sector ownership of the regulatory reform agenda. SDA as we know it now was not something that existed pre-NDIS.

New entrants to the market—many entering as a result of greater separation between housing and support— have left the SDA sector without the natural alliances and networks that bring players together. There needs to be a way to bring community housing providers, commercial providers, support providers, banks, developers and—most critically— people with disability and their families into the same room.

Those who attend DSC’s workshop often tell us of the best things about attending is the opportunity to form partnerships with other sectors they have never engaged with before. These kinds of networks are emerging, but are far from formalised.

Hopefully, this paper will help to spark conversation amongst the sector, and help bring together a market with a more unified vision for development. The challenge remains to take the SDA bull by the horns to create housing for the thousands of people with disability who desperately need somewhere safe, affordable and accessible to live the life they want. It is a challenge we believe we can meet.