21 December 2022

A search for a new home highlights the need for better housing choices for people with disability.

A man wearing a grey t-shirt watering plants.

The Christmas season is usually a time of joy and celebration for these five housemates from Penrith. However, six weeks before Christmas, they were facing a scary situation after their rental home was put up for sale, and a new home had not been found.

Jason, Brett, Scott, Thaison, and David have been living together in Supported Independent Living since they were teens and have developed a firm friendship over the years.

Two of the housemates with a support worker having coffee in a shopping centre.

The men recently received a notice that their home for the past ten years was officially on the market for sale. Rather than preparing for the holiday season, these men were coming to terms with the prospect of not being able to live together, as well as the major challenge of securing a rental property in the stretched Sydney rental market.

“I have worked with the guys for more than 20 years, and they are as close as brothers. Separating them was not an option,” said Keryle, Team Leader at Life Without Barriers.

Life Without Barriers immediately began working with Hume Housing on a solution. Hume partners with Life Without Barriers to provide Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) for customers under their NDIS plans. They partnered to secure a suitable property so the men could stay in a familiar area and continue to access local services.

“Finding a five-bedroom, two-bathroom home that was accessible and affordable was like searching for a needle in a haystack. Normally, we’d need time to plan a home search to make sure it will meet people’s needs. Here we were faced with housing five men in one of the tightest rental markets on record,” said Keryle.

In Sydney, the lowest vacancy rates are in the middle and outer areas like Penrith, which have all seen a steep rise in demand as renters move outwards looking for more affordable housing. The current rental vacancy rate for rental accommodation in Penrith sits at 0.5 per cent.

“Unfortunately, in such a competitive market, those who are most vulnerable are easily overlooked."

"Only eight homes matched our requirements, and we applied for all of them. We received two rejections, and the other applications received no response at all,” said Keryle.

Chris Camwell, Director of Disability Housing, said Life Without Barriers is exploring longer-term housing options for people with disability.

“The five friends’ experience highlights the need for better, more secure, fit-for-purpose housing options. As we move away from older-style group homes that are no longer fit for purpose, we can see that the rental market is an insecure option for people with disability."

"Life Without Barriers is committed to disrupting challenges people with disability experience in where they live and who they live with."

"We have begun this journey to invigorate living choices through our Home and Living initiative and communicating with people we support about their home preferences.”

Just three days out from their lease end, Hume successfully secured a property in St Clair, and now the group has a home for the next two years.

“It feels like a Christmas miracle. We are all so happy and relieved,” said Keryle.

One of the housemates hanging is washing out on the line.

The friends are now happily settling into their new home and are delighted to be invited to a street Christmas party with their new neighbours.

“We have a fair bit of work to do to improve the liveability of the home, but we are just so thankful the guys will remain together,” said Rachel.

One of the housemates sitting in the swimming pool.

To find out more about our work to improve living choices for people with disability, see the ‘Influencing Systemic Barriers’ section of our Annual Report 2022.

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