SDA Checklist: From Start to Finish

Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) is a complicated beast. Disability Services Consulting has produced a checklist with the key actions that organisations should be taking at 5 stages along the SDA journey.

This checklist is helping organisations to navigate this complicated area.

Download the checklist here.

DSC will be presenting the Checklist, along with a range of other topics, at our upcoming SDA Masterclass in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide.


Stage 1: Prior to embarking on SDA

It is critical for organisations to understand what they are getting in for and what the rules of the game are in SDA. All organsiations should be doing this before making a decision about embarking on an SDA project.

When DSC works with organsiations considering SDA we suggest that they:

·      Read and understand: SDA Rule; SDA Price Guide; Guide to Suitability & Terms of Business. These are the guiding documents that outline the rules of the SDA.  They are long and complicated. You can also read DSC’s summary articles about SDA here.

·      Financial model based on SDA Price Guide. Any serious investment in SDA will need a robust financial model behind it. The Price Guide outlines how much the NDIS and participants will pay for housing in the NDIS. This information needs to be combined with the organisation’s own costs and market benchmark about costs. Critical here are the assumptions that organisations make about the cost of building, cost of technology, vacancies and NDIS policy and pricing changes over time.

·      Understand demand and market requirements. 28,000 people around Australia are expected to get an SDA payment. SDA providers need to drill down into how many of these will be potential tenants for the size, type and location of their housing. Banks are asking to see a rigorous approach to understanding the likely demand for SDA products. Review DSC’s modelling here.

·      Consider potential partners and external advisors. SDA is not something many organisations can do alone. Many SDA providers require partners to deliver the Supported Independent Living day-to-day assistance. External advisors such as on accessible design (LHA assessors) will also be critical. Identifying these partners upfront is important to get projects starting from a good foundation.


Stage 2: Site Selection and Dwelling Design

The SDA market is becoming increasingly competitive. Getting the right design in the right location is critical to attract participants. Location selection and design also determine the price the NDIS pays for the dwelling.

When DSC works with organsiations considering SDA we suggest that they:

·      Prioritise NDIS roll out location, and access to transport and amenities. Opening SDA today in a location that doesn’t roll out into the NDIS until 2019 and you’ll have a huge revenue shortfall. Organisations needs to look at how their housing timeline aligns with the NDIS roll out. The NDIS is also restricting transport funding, so proximity to transport and amenities is providing essential.

·      Consider planning, land use and zoning issues. Some States and Local Governments require residential land to be rezoned to us as SDA. Victoria requires fire sprinklers to be installed. Make sure you’re aware of all land use and planning issues prior to committing to a project.

·      Consider density restriction. There are limits on the number of SDA dwellings on a single title of land, or subdivided titles. Organisations need to be aware of other purchasers in apartment building, and plan for single titles to avoid breaching the density requirements.

·      Identify SDA Building Types. Organisations need to navigate the 4 accessibility levels and the 11 building types to decide what to build and at what level of accessibility. This needs to reflect local demand as well as the complexity of a support providers assisting \people with very high support needs.

·      Design based on building types. The SDA requirements are very strict – if the dwelling doesn’t meet the Livable Housing Australia assessment, it cannot be registered. Built an apartment with windows higher than 100cm above the floor and your NDIS payment drops from $84,412 per year to $0. Investing in an LHA assessor to verify designs is an investment well worth making.


Stage 3: NDA Registration and Dwelling Enrolment

Once a dwelling is built the organisation needs to be registered with the NDIA to receive payments, and the dwelling needs to be enrolled.

When DSC works with organsiations considering SDA we suggest that they:

·      Understand organisational restrictions. In some jurisdictions there are requirements for organisation to register. In Victoria organisations much have a support provider partner that is registered with the NDIS.

·      Get LHA and Building certification. Dwellings require a Livable Housing Australia assessment and a building certificate for the dwelling.

·      Register as a provider and enrol dwelling. Organisations are considering whether to go through the hoops to register themselves, or whether to use another provider to register their dwellings on their behalf – taking much of the administrative hassle out of being an SDA provider. Providers also need to email the NDIA with the Dwelling Enrolment Form.


Stage 4: Tenant Selection and Vacancy Management

·      Understand SDA eligibility. Only 6% of NDIS participants will be SDA eligible. Organisations need to be clear about what type of support need is likely is be eligible for the SDA payment to avoid raising expectations of potential tenants. Useful proxies are a $140,000 NDIS plan or the need for 6 or more episodes of assistance per day.

·      Develop partnerships for tenant selection. Detailed expertise in assessments for support needs, accessibility requirements and tenant compatibility need to be employed to select tenants. Local knowledge to identify unmet need is also highly valuable. Many SDA providers are looking to partner with local carers group or support providers to identify tenants.

·      Clear MoU in place with support provider (SIL). Where SIL and SDA are separated, both organisations need to come to a clear agreement on roles and responsibilities. This is often codified through an MoU on which party is responsible for which activities in the dwelling. State Governments are developing some standard agreements as templates that organisations can draw on.

·      Have an agreement with the tenant that meets NDIS requirements. Every SDA provider is required to have an agreement with their tenants. The SDA Rules and Terms of Business both require a series of terms to be included in this agreement. Again, States are preparing some templates.

·      Set Reasonable Rent Contribution and Board. The NDIS Rules and Terms of Business set limits on the amount of Rent and Board that can be charges, and require that participants have choice over their Board provider. Organisations need to ensure that their Rent and Board setting policies are compliant.


Stage 5: Ongoing Management

SDA providers need to continue to play a minimal role in annually attesting that their dwellings are compliant and monitoring SDA policy changes. This light touch approach is required after the dwellings are occupied and the project is all up and running

When DSC works with organsiations considering SDA we suggest that they:

·      Annual attestation of suitability. SDA providers need to submit a declaration to the NDIA every year declaring that their dwelling continues to meet the NDIA’s requirements. This needs to be done by 1 March each year.

·      Monitor SDA policy & pricing changes. The SDA policy and pricing approach is likely to continue to shift and evolve as the program grows. SDA providers need to continue to engage with the policy changes and pricing reviews to ensure they are aware of further risks and opportunities that arise.