NSW Housing Provider Bombshell: NDIA Release Updated SDA Documents

UPDATE 5 April: DSC understands that the NSW Government has reconsidered the SDA provider registration restrictions and will be requesting that the NDIA change the document to reflect a less restricted approach - DSC will monitor this closely and provide an update once more information is at hand. This goes to show that shining a spotlight on bad NDIS decisions can lead to changes in NDIS policy


New information out from the NDIA this week have an unexpected (and unhappy) surprise for NSW SDA providers, while the information confirms that SDA is ploughing ahead in Victoria and other states.

The NDIA released updated: 

  1. Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) Guide to Suitability (16 March 2017)
  2. Terms of Business for Registered Providers
  3. SDA Price Guide

The good news is that most of the updates provide further linkages between these documents and the recently released SDA Rule and Quality and Safeguarding Framework. They also codify the Decision Paper descriptions of SDA housing requirements.

However, there is one potentially massive change for SDA Providers in NSW.

 

NSW: A Limited Market

Within the Guide to Suitability there are tables that outline state-by-state laws, codes and standards that apply to SDA. For most states this is further information that is useful when developing SDA. However, In the table for NSW it states:

All providers in NSW must be either:
1.  A community housing provider, registered under the National Regulatory System for Community Housing (NRSCH); OR
2. An organisation currently receiving Group Accommodation funding from FACS (ADHC).
Organisations who wish to become providers of SDA can either enter into a contractual relationship with SDA providers in the above two categories, or can themselves become registered as a CHP with the NSW Registrar of Community Housing.

Effectively this eliminates NDIS participants, any private investors or the “Mum and Dad” with an accessible rental property from registering as SDA providers.

The NSW requirements will force all these individuals and organisations to form agreements with other organisations (Community Housing Providers or existing Group Home providers) to register and manage the SDA on their behalf. Adding additional overheads and burden into a market that is already severely underperforming in terms of the amount of SDA actually being delivered on the ground.

Rather than pushing a separation of housing and support, NSW’s announcement ingrains combined housing and support. With NSW preventing them from registering, many private SDA providers will simply go straight to Group Home providers to head lease their properties. This undermines the whole approach to separating housing and support that the NDIA itself keeps telling the market it is encouraging.

With bombshell decisions such as this one is there any wonder why investors are passing by SDA – especially now in NSW? We can imagine the frustration of ‘would-be SDA providers’ who have already sunk tens of millions into SDA based on the Decision Paper, only to find out this week they cannot register as a provider.

 

Victoria: A Limited Market

The material provided for Victoria is not clear on the SDA provider requirements but suggests “Prospective SDA providers are strongly advised to contact the Victorian Government to check requirements prior to registering with the NDIA” so it is difficult to know what Victoria / DHHS has in store but we will be keeping a close watch on any further information released.

At this stage, it looks like Victoria will place all the regulatory burden and registration requirements on the support (SIL) provider. SDA providers will play a secondary role and largely escape any formal regulation. Victoria are saying that the SDA provider will not have a tenancy agreement with the participants, but the support (SIL) provider will have the tenancy agreement with the tenant. Again, it brings into question how a separation of housing and support will work.

From the information available, it is clear that Victoria will be more hands on in managing vacancies than most organisations anticipated. Victoria have flagged that there will be policies for vacancy management.

Some other areas of further clarity provided across the documents include:

  • Greater definition of the categories of dwellings and how they can co-exist in some circumstances. Importantly, a clearer definition of what an apartment, townhouse/duplex and house are defined as will prevent providers from mis-classifying dwellings for higher payment rates.
  • Conformation that the number of tenants in a dwelling is not just participants with SDA in their plans but all residents. This is especially important for providers housing families, or mixing respite and long term accommodation.
  • Pricing for SDA payments and regional factors have remained the same (good news!)
  • Numerous SDA rule items from Luke Bo'sher’s recent article carried through into the documents such as vacancy payments of between 60 to 90 days.