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Dodging Bad Designs in Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA)

Recently, we wrote about the 5 most important questions you should ask your SDA provider before investing, to ensure your investment is making a meaningful difference to NDIS participants requiring SDA housing. The overarching theme was around the design of SDA properties and their appropriateness to meet the needs of tenants. So why are there still so many designs that don’t work? 

SDA is a new world for investors, and unless you are suitably trained, you may be none-the-wiser as to what will work for people with disability. We step you through some design flaws to avoid when looking for your SDA investment property. 

Some NDIS SDA housing problems can be fixed – others can’t!

When it comes to specialist disability housing, it seems ridiculous that some properties tick all the basic design standard boxes on paper yet still aren’t fit for purpose. Whilst some of the problems can be fixed, some others simply can’t be undone. Don’t get caught out when looking for or building your SDA NDIS investment property. 

Here are the top problems to be on the lookout for when considering SDA eligibility:

Robust SDA category problems that can’t be fixed


    • Low ceilings

    • Where there is only one entry and exit to a room (support workers need to be able to exit rooms for safety (if need be) where they can’t be cornered)

    • The block of land is too small and doesn’t leave ample space between neighbours. Acreage is the preferred block size for Robust participants. Participants are potentially triggered by neighbours noise (or causing loud, disruptive noise themselves), have confrontational personalities that benefit from a level of separation, or find close proximity to shopping centres increases their chances of exhibiting risky behaviour. 

High Physical Support SDA Category problems that can’t be fixed

    • The house is built for more than 3 people with extreme functional impairment or very high support needs

    • The bathrooms do not leave sufficient room for 2 support workers to shower someone, nor big enough to shower someone in their bed

    • The bedrooms aren’t big enough to transfer people into moveable beds/stretchers

    • The hallways are less than 1500mm wide

    • The doors are smaller than 1200mm

    • The space at the end of the bed isn’t well over 1000mm

    • Living areas in shared accommodation are small

    • There are corners in hallways and living areas 

Other problems across all National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) design categories that cannot be undone

    • The block is in the middle of a suburban estate, out of walking distance of any amenities 

    • Small living areas

    • There are shared bathrooms – each participant should have their own ensuite adjoined to their bedroom. 

Problems that could cost you more to fix down the track


  • Rooms have been built with ceiling fans
  • Showers have shower screens
  • There are split system air conditioners
  • No casual surveillance from entrances to exits

High Physical Support

  • Lack of automated doors
  • Automated doors requiring push button
  • Where the property exits in a complex that doesn’t have touchless automated doors
  • Toilets being situated next to showers

How to dodge bad designs

It’s safe to say that unless the property development seriously overachieves the NDIS SDA design standard, then it’s likely not going to be fit for purpose for tenants and could even end up costing you more in the long run — especially if you miss out on the house being a registered NDIS property, and you forgo SDA funding. Specialist Disability Accommodation properties that meet the standards on paper will often lack in person, so be sure to conduct your due diligence. 

When it comes to housing Australians with disability, details matter! By paying extra attention to the right details, not only can you provide a forever home for someone who needs SDA housing, but you can also safeguard your capital and income from unnecessary disruption. 

NDIS Loan Experts can help

The government have provided SDA funding as an incentive for investors to boost the supply of SDA housing. But not just any house will do! Be sure your SDA property goes above and beyond for the SDA participants.

NDIS loan experts are only too happy to help in your search for the perfect SDA investment property. Contact us today to see how you can start making your benevolent investment dreams a reality with SDA

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