Disability & Housing Forum to address housing barriers for people with disability

Disability & Housing Forum to address housing barriers for people with disability in Western Australia.

Accessing housing for people with disability in Western Australia is harder than it should be, but a range of solutions are at hand that will benefit all members of the community.

“For people with disability finding housing that is suitable and enables them to set up a stable home in an area and community of their choice is very challenging, on top of the shortage of housing and the current affordability crisis that impacts on everyone,” said Michael Bleasdale, Executive Officer of Rights & Inclusion Australia (R&IA).

R&IA is a national organisation of and for people with disability which is hosting the Western Australia Disability & Housing Forum, in partnership with Shelter WA and Enliven Community, from Tuesday, 12 July to Thursday, 21 July.

National Construction Code 

“Historical poor planning and building design has made it difficult for people with disability to access the same housing markets as others’, said Mr Bleasdale. “We hope that amendments to the National Construction Code (NCC), which include basic level accessibility features in new housing, will go some way to address this.”

Brendan Cullinan, Chief Executive Officer of People with Disabilities WA (PWdWA) said, “While we know the WA government accepts the arguments in support of mandating accessible housing provisions, WA has opted out of mandating the provisions as part of the September 2022 NCC update and have not committed to a timeframe for adoption”. WA is one of three States in the country which have delayed implementation of the accessibility provisions of the National Construction Code. PWdWA, Shelter WA, R&IA and other national and local organisations are working hard to change the Western Australia Government’s position.”

WA Residential Tenancies Act 

Ensuring everybody has access to a home that meets their needs is one of the key themes of the Forum. Shelter WA CEO, Michelle Mackenzie, indicated that there is a new opportunity with the reform of the WA Residential Tenancies Act to ensure that renting is a more positive experience for people with disabilities. “We make reasonable adjustments for people with disability in many other areas of life, and we need to ensure that people with disabilities are not discriminated against in the rental market or with their tenancies,” said Michelle. “The timeframes for completing housing inspection reports, and the dense and legalistic language of agreements all further disadvantage people with disability and take no account of the additional time and supports they may need to fulfil their responsibilities as tenants.”

Practical Changes

Tenants with disability are currently working with Shelter WA and People with Disabilities WA and have identified practical changes to existing tenancy support services that would make the services more available to people with diverse needs. It is this voice of practical knowledge that needs to be included in the recommissioning of services. Tenancy support providers need adequate resources to work with a diverse group of people to assist them to avoid eviction.

The Forum sessions will also include conversations about home modifications and programs and assistance available through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Program speakers include representatives from the WA Department of Communities, REIWA, Keystart, Shelter WA, Consumer Protection WA, Circle Green Community Legal and Sussex Street Community Law Services. Registrations are still open to people with disability, and families, and others from the community.

Details can be found at https://riaustralia.org/opening-the-door-project.

Media Contacts

  • Michelle Mackenzie, CEO Shelter WA (08) 9325 6660
  • Michael Bleasdale, EO R&IA 0499 900 006
  • Brendan Cullinan, CEO PWdWA (08) 9420 7279

Fast Facts

  • An estimated 411,500 people with disability live in Western Australia;
    • 147, 000 own their home without a mortgage
    • 113,200 own their home with a mortgage
    • 111,600 are renting
    • 76,000 in private rentals
  • In WA currently, 42,025 people have an active NDIS plan, around 10 per cent of all people with disability.
  • Less than five per cent of existing housing stock would be suitable for a person living with a mobility restriction. Over a quarter of people with severe or profound disability must modify their house to make it suitable for their needs. This increases to over 40 per cent for older people with severe and profound disability.
  • Older people with disability are significantly more likely to be renting than older people without disability. This is part of the increasing trend of lower income people renting privately.
  • Renters with disability are among a group of low-income households more likely to experience rental stress.
  • People with severe or profound disability are twice as likely as other people with disability to have to move house to meet their needs.
  • A 2018 survey of renters found that renters with disability were more likely to be served with a no grounds eviction.
  • Research from the University of Melbourne in relation to the negative impacts of living in non-accessible housing concluded: ‘Including minimal accessibility standards in the National Building Code is necessary to achieve greater independence, dignity, freedom, social inclusion, economic productivity, and improved health and wellbeing for people with mobility restrictions.’ Living with disability in inaccessible housing: social, health and economic impacts.
  • People with disability are overrepresented amongst people experiencing homelessness.
  • There are 18,936 households in the social housing waitlist. There are 4,064 on the priority waitlist.