People Before Profit in Growing Disability Housing Sector

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on property sectors, many investors are turning their attention to purpose-led projects that deliver on socially conscious outcomes.

And while the pandemic has created uncertainty for all, people living with disabilities have disproportionately been affected by Covid-19.

In his opening address at the Disability Royal Commission, which resumed its public hearings this week, chair Ronald Sackville said that “in one sense we are all in this together—but we have not all been affected equally”.

Adversity often brings social purpose to the forefront, and Covid-19 has been a reminder of the importance of ensuring a more sustainable and equitable road ahead, particularly in the construction and supply of specialist disability accommodation (SDA) properties.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will support $700 million in specialist disability accommodation payments annually, creating opportunity for the private sector to deliver new specialist dwellings.

But as the new housing market emerges, which specifically caters to the four-million Australians living with disability, how can the property industry best serve this market and, more importantly, get it right?

Knowing that thoughtful design, light and space plays an essential role in the health and wellbeing of inhabitants, Estia House St Andrews provides such a model—balancing the need for independence and care.

“People are the only important thing,” architect Angelo Candalepas says of the building’s design process.

“The key to the project is a focus on community.”

▲ The house was awarded the Australian Institute of Architects' NSW Premier’s Prize 2016, and the AIA National Architecture Award Public Buildings, 2016Photography: Brett Boardman.

Located in Sydney, the house is designed specifically for group housing, and serves as a new model of a care facility where people with intellectual and physical disabilities live together.

Candalepas says that his design process deliberately ignored established architectural typologies.

“Estia House is clear and thoughtful in its planning,” Candalepas said.

“Residents are able to create their own sense of home, live among neighbours and flourish within a system of socially inclusive care that prioritises participation and self-sufficiency.”

It is the thought about design and function that Candalepas says enables group homes to provide independence and a sense of self-worth.

The home caters for 10 residents, each living with disabilities, such as down syndrome, cerebral palsy and severe autism spectrum disorder along with permanent support staff.

Thoughtful planning includes large windows for natural light and wide corridors where wheelchairs can pass by without fuss and friends can stop and chat. Along with rooms that are practical and flexible to suit each resident’s lifestyle.

Candalepas says staff offices sit discretely from the corridor so as not to intrude and look down the length of the corridor.

“People are the only important thing, light and the plan are tools to design space for any function,” he said.

Angelo Candalepas will join a panel of disability housing advocates and experts at The Urban Developer’s Disability Housing and NDIS summit on Thursday, an online conference dedicated to the emerging specialist disability accommodation (SDA) sector.

The Urban Developer Disability Housing and NDIS vSummit is an online conference dedicated to the emerging specialist disability accommodation (SDA) sector.

Click here for more information.


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