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

Updated: Jun 10

I have written this article with the 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 the SDA-Operational guideline and the SDA rules 2020 are documents containing quite comprehensive information that can be a great bedtime reading for those wanting to deep dive into 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 solutions 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 specialized 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 an 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 covers 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 categorized 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 the 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 the house is not the home of an eligible participant, and 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 the state or commonwealth government.


3. New Build –

a. A certificate of occupancy issued to a completely new dwelling or to a dwelling that 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 the 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 the only eligible participant, spouse, or de facto and their children.


Besides categorizing a dwelling based on its date of existence, an SDA dwelling can also be subdivided into 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 a house for a long time and wish to continue living there.


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


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


4. Robust Construction – as the name indicates made the very strong and durable reducing the chance of repairs and upkeep. Suitable for people with disability having to manage behavior or 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 a 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 designs 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 the 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 has an extreme functional impairment or very high support needs that impact 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 participant's needs and eligibility. This assessment can also be based on the 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 a specialist disability accommodation. A plan may also specify the SDA provider, who may provide the SDA support. Such nomination of an SDA provider by NDIA can occur when NDIA believes that a participant may have a very specific SDA need and only a certain provider can cater for it or NDIA may specify a provider based on continuity and stability factors, 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 into the dwelling, NDIA will then add/update your plan with the funds for SDA support.


How can providers enroll Dwellings as SDA with NDIA?

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


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