Everything you need to know about Specialist Disability Accommodations (SDA’s) in NDIS

Updated: Mar 2

I have written this article with an aim to simplify the available information about Specialist Disability Accommodations in NDIS. About SDA’s, there is so much that is already published.


NDIA released SDA-Operational guideline and the SDA rules 2020 are documents containing quite comprehensive information that can be a great bed time reading for those wanting to deep dive in to the current and future trends in SDA.


However, my aim today to write this article was to extract most of the details about SDA from different sources, making it simple and a one-piece reference for both participants and providers, giving an overall picture of SDA.


We hope you enjoy reading it and find the information simple and easy…


What is a Special Disability Accommodation?

Special Disability Accommodation (SDA) is a term that refers to a type of dwelling aimed at and designed to provide specialist housing solution to people with disabilities.


It is a type of dwelling which is built and designed to suit a person with a disability’s special accommodation needs. A person with a disability may share this dwelling with other residents having disabilities or may choose to stay on their own, depending on the needs and circumstances of the participant.


Being a specialised dwelling and with strict eligibility criteria around who can receive the SDA funding in their plan, NDIA expects that only a small proportion of participants may qualify for it. These are the NDIS participants having extreme functional impairment or very high intensity support needs.


One may easily get confused between terms such as Supported Independent Living (SIL) and SDA as both terms relate to accommodation type of support in NDIA. Very simply, SDA does not cover any supports or services an individual may need for their daily living activities. SIL funding cover for such needs of a person with a disability.

SDA funding only covers the capital (bricks and mortar) costs of a dwelling. Hence SDA funding is meant and attached to the individual dwelling, which then necessitates a dwelling to be enrolled or registered with NDIA as an SDA dwelling beforehand, that can be used as an SDA home to house the eligible NDIA participants.

In order for each house to be registered as an SDA dwelling, it must meet strict design criteria and needs certification by an assessment process, to be completed by a suitably qualified assessor. A list of NDIA approved assessors can be accessed using the following link - https://sdaassessors.org.au/


What are the types of SDA dwellings?

Based on how old a dwelling is and certain other factors including designs, SDA dwellings are categorised as below –


1. Existing Stock –

a. Not a new build.


b. Shared areas and at least one bedroom and a bathroom satisfy SDA design requirements.


c. Dwelling is or will be enrolled to house 5 or fewer residents (excluding staff).


d. Housing 5 or more long-term residents (from same family) and that the dwelling is the home of an eligible participant who intends to provide SDA to themselves and if that is the case is occupied by only the eligible participant, spouse or de facto and their children.


e. If house is not the home of an eligible participant, has housed a resident with significant functional impairment between 1 July 2013 to 1 December 2016.


2. Legacy Stock –

a. Not a new build.


b. Shared areas and at least one bedroom and a bathroom satisfy SDA design requirements.


c. Dwelling is or will be enrolled to house more than 5 residents (excluding staff).


d. It can be a dwelling that is an aged care or a residential or healthcare facility, has accommodated a resident with significant functional impairment between 1 July 2013 to 1 December 2016 and may have received disability related support accommodation payment from state or commonwealth government.


3. New Build –

a. A certificate of occupancy issued to a completely new dwelling or to a dwelling underwent renovation or refurbishment on or after 1 April 2016, satisfying SDA design requirements.


b. Shared areas and at least one bedroom and a bathroom satisfy SDA design requirements.


c. Dwelling is or will be enrolled to house 5 or fewer residents (excluding staff).


d. Housing 5 or more long-term residents (from same family) and that the dwelling is the home of an eligible participant who intends to provide SDA to themselves and if that being the case, is occupied by only eligible participant, spouse or de facto and their children.


Besides categorising dwelling based on its date of existence, an SDA dwelling can also be subdivided in to five different types of design categories as below –


1. Basic – does not have any specific design feature. These are the older housings existing or build before NDIS started. You may receive the funding for this type of house only if you are living in such house for a long time and wish to continue living there.


2. Improved Liveability – better physical access, and has features for people with sensory, cognitive and intellectual impairment.


3. Fully Accessible – high level physical access for people with disability having lot of physical challenges


4. Robust Construction – as the name indicate made very strong and durable reducing chance of repairs and upkeep. Suitable for people with disability having to manage behaviour of concerns and is designed to make it safe for you and others.


5. High Physical Support – High level physical access for people with disability having significant physical impairment and requiring very high support needs.


These designs can be planned and built in one of the following building types –

1. Apartments,

2. Duplexes, Villas, Townhouses

3. Group homes (housing up to 5 residents)

4. Larger dwellings (housing more than 5 residents)


Considering all the types and design of dwellings as stated above, including the number of bedrooms and location of dwellings, are some of the key factors in determining the pricing paid as funding for a participant in their yearly NDIS plan.

In depth information regarding prices, including the formulas used to determine the pricing by NDIA can be available from the NDIA SDA pricing document, weblink – HERE


How is eligibility of a participant for SDA determined?

In order to be eligible for an SDA funding, NDIA must be satisfied that the person with a disability have extreme functional impairment or very high support needs that impacts their mobility, self-care and self-management.


To assess the functional impairment, an assessment or an examination is to be carried out to assess the participants needs and eligibility. This assessment can also be based on daily support requirements of a participant and can be done using tools specified by NDIA.


Once the eligibility is determined, a statement is included in a participant plan stating the eligibility to receive specialist disability accommodation. A plan may also specify the SDA provider, who may provide the SDA support. Such nomination of SDA provider by NDIA can occur when NDIA believes that a participant may have very specific SDA need and only certain provider can cater for it or NDIA may specify a provider based on continuity and stability factor, so as to make sure that you receive same support and care without any changes or delay.


NDIA also considers the needs of eligible SDA participants and determines the following things in their plan –


1. Preferred design category (evaluating participant support needs),

2. Dwelling type (determining participant goals and the need to achieve those goals),

3. Dwelling location (helping participants get the most value for their money by determining their needs and goals).


If the type of dwelling that you need is not available, NDIA will still add the design category, building type and location in your plan. Based on the comments by NDIA in your plan, you may keep looking for a suitable dwelling or ask a builder to build it specifically for you and your needs. Once you move in to the dwelling, NDIA will then add/update your plan with the funds for SDA support.


How do providers can enrol Dwellings as SDA with NDIA?

Providers who may wish to provide SDA housing support must register with NDIS Commission and must abide to the NDIS code of conduct and must also meet applicable NDIS practice standards.


To enrol a dwelling that is newly built or a legacy or an existing stock, a provider can use one of the 2 options to enrol. Either they can enrol a housing type against new SDA design standards (mandatory after 1 July 2021) or they can choose to enrol under minimum requirements for dwelling completed prior 1 July 2021 (to be replaced by SDA design standards).


For dwellings to be completed after 1 July 2021, Design standard exemptions can be applied for, by submitting an exemption form (weblink – HERE). For exemptions, NDIA may consider your case at its own discretion, given that you show the evidence that you have made substantial investment or commitment of investment on a project in progress that will be completed after 01 July 2021 and that it is not possible for you to change the design or project plan at this stage.


Applications for enrolment of dwellings can be made in writing using my NDIS provider portal. In case if you do not have access to the NDIS provider portal, and assuming that you have proda account created with a nominated manager, your proda account manager can request access to the NDIS provider portal by emailing to SDAenrolment@ndis.gov.auand providing ID details of the main contact in your Organisation.


Application processing time is 28 days from the date of submission. In case if it takes longer, NDIA may inform provider. To approve an application, NDIA needs the following information:

1. SDA Dwelling Enrolment Application Form

2. Provider Certification Form

3. Certificate of compliance signed by a qualified SDA Assessor.


Conditions of enrolment apply and providers must comply with the conditions of –

1. Dwelling is maintained, and

2. NDIA notified of any changes

3. Any certificates or information required by NDIA must be provided on time.

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