NDIS Loan Experts

hand holding a house

Design categories to consider when planning your SDA home

In all the considerations to be made when looking to build or buy National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) rental properties, the SDA design is undoubtedly one of the most important. In order to supply suitable accommodation for Australians living with disability, SDA properties are categorised into four different design categories. Meaning, NDIS properties are not all the same. Before you build or buy NDIS property, let us take you through the design categories to consider when planning your SDA home. 

What are Specialist Disability Accommodation homes?

Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) is the housing that falls under the recent NDIS initiative set out by the Federal Government. The NDIS provides funding to Australians living with disability for appropriate accommodation that suits their needs and supports their unique requirements. These homes are purpose-built to specifications set out by the NDIS and are designed across four categories: 

  1. Improved Liveability
  2. Fully Accessible
  3. Robust
  4. High Physical Support

The initiative provides funding towards the cost of the physical environment for those participants who are eligible to receive SDA housing under the NDIS. This not only includes the building itself but also access to services such as support workers to ensure tenants can live with a high quality of life and receive daily support. 

The types of homes that become SDA properties range from free-standing homes to townhouses and even apartments in mixed developments. The style of property depends on the location of the home but also the design category and the accessibility requirements for the participants who will occupy the purpose-built residence

What are the SDA design categories? 

The four distinct SDA design categories are Improved Liveability, Fully Accessible, Robust and High Physical Support. They have been developed to ensure that those requiring high levels of support have an appropriate physical environment to live in. The house must meet one of these design categories to be eligible for the SDA market.

The NDIS has released a detailed SDA Design Standard that came into effect on 1 July 2021. The Design Standard helps improve clarity around design requirements, provider confidence and compliance through providing high-quality housing models to NDIS participants, the flexibility to respond to participant needs and preferences, as well as providing clarity to architects, builders and the community on how homes are designed to support those with disabilities should be built. 

An overview of the SDA design categories

Improved Liveability

Designed to improve ‘liveability’ by incorporating a reasonable level of physical access as well as enhanced provision for those with sensory, intellectual or cognitive impairment. 

Fully Accessible

Like improved liveability, fully accessible homes are designed to incorporate a high level of physical access provision for people who have a significant degree of physical impairment. 


The Robust design category also incorporates a high level of physical access provision, however, has been developed to provide homes that are very resilient which reduces the likelihood of reactive maintenance and also reduces the risk to both the participant and the community.

High Physical Support

As the name of this category suggests, High Physical Support housing incorporates a high level of physical access provision for people that require very high levels of support and who have a significant physical impairment. 

During the planning phase of buying or building an NDIS property investment, it’s paramount to consider which SDA design category your NDIS property is going to be. This is particularly important as some styles of dwellings do not suit certain design categories as they are inadequate in meeting the minimum requirements of each unique category. 

Some commonly asked questions on SDA home Design Categories

When do I need to decide on a design category? 

You can have the NDIS SDA property certified to a particular Design category at two stages:

  1. Provisional stage – this is when the design is submitted for approval.
  2. Final-as-built sage – this is mandatory for SDA enrolment with the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

Is it possible to have an SDA design be certified under more than one design category?

You can absolutely have a dwelling be certified under more than one design category, however, it will of course need to meet the full minimum standards under all enrolled design categories. 

How does the NDIS determine SDA building types?

Building Type


Classification under Typical Building Code of Australia

Group Home

More residents that other forms of communication (eg 4 or 5)

Class 1(b)(i), or Class 3


Detached, low-rise dwellings that have either gardens or courtyard area

Class 1(a)(i), Class 1(b)(i), or Class 3

Villa / Duplex / Townhouse

Separate, but semi-detached properties that occupy a single land title or strata-titled area. The dwellings are separated by any other adjoining dwellings by a fire-resisting wall. 

Standalone ‘granny flat’ style dwellings are also considered villas. 

Class 1 (a)(ii), or Class 3

At NDIS loan experts, we can help you lay the financial foundation for your NDIS investment property. To cement your purchase of NDIS rental properties, contact us today!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *