Ausnew Home Care | Advocacy group calls for more support to help people with a disability buy a home

Advocacy group calls for more support to help people with a disability buy a home

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After losing his sight at the age of six, Ben Gritt's goal of owning his own home always felt out of reach.

"Over the years I have thought about it," Mr Gritt said. 

"Being on a disability pension and not being employed for a number of years, it seemed like a pipe dream."

Mr Gritt is not alone.

The Disability Advocacy Network of Australia (DANA) said housing remained one of the top issues people with a disability faced every day.

But in 2024, Mr Gritt's dreams came true when he, his partner Rose, and her daughter Frances were handed the keys to their brand-new family home in Lucknow, in Victoria's east.

"Towards the end of the pandemic … we were looking through land options and daydreaming," he said.

"We just sort of thought, 'Why not give it a go?'"

A seeing eye dog with Frances and Ben featured in the background, blurred.
Ben's seeing eye dog, Luca, feels right at home.(ABC Gippsland: William Howard)

For Mr Gritt, this milestone has been a long time coming.

Living in regional Victoria, he struggled to find workplaces that were willing to employ him, due to fears it would be too difficult to accommodate his needs.

"Unfortunately, it's just so hard to find work in country areas when you've got a disability," he said.

Eventually he gave up and pivoted to a life as a self-employed ceramic pottery artist, running workshops for others with a disability.

"It's been running for about two-and-a-half years now and it's really successful," Mr Gritt said.

"It's providing an important social aspect for a lot of people [in the community] who have disabilities."

The success of his business meant Mr Gritt was able to save enough money to enter the property market.

Housing crisis hits disabled Australians hard

It's no secret that Australia is in the middle of a housing crisis.

Vacancy rates are at record lows, rental prices are at record highs, and for many people it has simply become too expensive to buy a home.

An aerial view of houses in Melbourne.
The number of people facing homelessness in Australia is increasing.(ABC News: Simon Leo Brown)

DANA's policy and advocacy director, El Gibbs, has asked Australians to spare a thought for those with a disability.

"Our advocates tell us that housing is the second biggest issue that people with disability come and see them about, second only to the NDIS," Ms Gibbs said.

"Lots of people with disability don't have much money, so many of us rely on income support or work part time."

Ms Gibbs said a lot of the organisation's clients were already spending 70 to 80 per cent of their income on rent, leaving little room to save.

"It's really unusual for people with disability to own their own homes," Ms Gibbs said.

"It would be really great to sort of see some pathways into home ownership."

A glass office building with the purple NDIS sign out the front.
Many Australians with a disability rely on support payments from the National Disability Insurance Scheme.(ABC News: Nicole Mills)

Shared equity arrangements have been flagged by several advocacy groups as a way forward.

Shared equity is an agreement in which the government makes a financial contribution towards the purchase of a property in exchange for a proportional interest, or share, in that property.

"We propose that governments come to the party and actually put down some guarantees around making sure that people can actually get into the market," Ms Gibbs said.

"If you've been paying 80 per cent of your disability support pension to a disability support provider for a group home your whole life, how on earth are you going to save for the home deposit?"

Creating the perfect home

When Ben, Rose, and Frances were looking for their perfect home, they knew it would be a difficult task.

"My partner and I have only rented in the past and were clueless when it came to the housing market," Mr Gritt said.

It was made particularly challenging by the modifications that would be required to accommodate Mr Gritt's needs and lifestyle.

This is when the family of three decided to visit a Metricon showroom, meeting with new home consultant Bien Lema.

A red brick home at the top of a driveway. There is a garden bed to the left which is unfinished.
Ben, Rose, and Frances have all moved into their new family home in Lucknow, in Victoria's east.(ABC Gippsland: William Howard)

Ben, Rose, and Frances had initially hoped to build on a block of land perched on a hill, a choice Mr Lema talked them out of.

"Once I looked at the block and saw how much slope was on it, we had a deeper conversation about whether it was really the right block of land for Ben," Mr Lema said.

"Lucknow was [later] suggested because it's very close to Bairnsdale, it's got footpaths and the land around here is relatively flat, so it's easier [for Ben] to move around."

Without this comprehensive advice, Mr Gritt said he may have built a home that was unsuitable.

"Having a sloping block could have proven to be a bit hazardous," Mr Gritt said.

"Bien could have just sold us the build and moved on, but in that moment, he showed us that he had our best interests at heart."

Metricon team members stand with Ben in front of the garage door of his new house.
The Metricon team helped Ben Gritt's dream of owning a home come true.(ABC Gippsland: William Howard)

As for the move to Lucknow, Mr Gritt said he had never looked back.

"There's just so much up here and we've got the train line now, which is really cheap and affordable," he said.

"Plus, you've got all the beaches, lakes … it's just a different way of living up here."

 

Source: ABC


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