Each year, 200 Australians under the age of 50 are admitted into nursing homes.

Young people in aged care facilities have limited opportunity to make the everyday choices that most of us take for granted such as the time we go to bed and the food we eat. Their lives are characterised by boredom and loneliness, with more than half receiving a visit from a friend less than one a year.

While the National Disability Insurance Scheme aims to address the underfunded, unfair and fragmented disability system, many people with disability will not move out of nursing homes, simply because there are no alternative housing options for them.

The Summer Foundation is determined to change this, and is building demonstration housing projects to provide concrete alternatives to placing young people in nursing homes.

We currently have two demonstration projects. The first, in Melbourne’s Abbottsford, features six fully-accessible one-bedroom apartments peppered throughout a 59-unit private and social housing development. The second, in the Hunter region, features 10 apartments for people for disability within a 110-unit private development.

All apartments support easy movement for wheelchairs, and feature accessible internal spaces, generous door and corridor widths, room lengths and turning circles. Robust wall products reduce damage from wheelchairs. Bathrooms and kitchens are designed with adaptability in mind, but don’t shout ‘disability’.

We’ve also incorporated smart home technology into the common areas and individual apartments to maximise tenants’ independence.

These are the sorts of features most developers would expect from an accessible design, and it should be no surprise that both projects have achieved Platinum level certification under the Livable Housing Design Guidelines.

However, our objective has been to create housing that, while being functional and accessible, looks and feels like neighbouring apartments. We use mainstream rather than disability-specific design, products and equipment wherever possible, and choose sites for their proximity to public transport, shops and services.

We have partnered with Monash University to evaluate the built design and tenant outcomes. Initial findings indicate improved quality of life, social inclusion, increased independence, decreased reliance on paid supports and a reduction in life time care costs.

Once fully operational, the NDIS may provide up to $700 million each year in funding for housing. While the NDIS is a significant part of the solution to move young people out of nursing homes, there remains an urgent need for Australia to increase the scale and range of accessible and affordable housing for people with disability – which is where Australia’s development industry can help.

When private residential developments consider the needs of people with disability, we’ll know we’re well on the road to an inclusive Australia.

To register your interest in a tour of the display units at the Hunter Housing Demonstration Project or for more information visit: www.summerfoundation.com.au