Four years ago Bob Gordon and Dianne Snowden started looking into housing options for their youngest son, Jack.
- It's estimated 500 affordable homes will be required in Tasmania's disability sector over the next 5 to 10 years
- Many parents are worried about where their children will live when they can no longer care for them
- A group of Tasmanian philanthropists has stepped in to address major gaps in disability housing
The 28-year-old — who needs supported accommodation — was seeking independence and was ready to move out of the family home.
Bob and Dianne attended a family forum for Tasmanians with disabilities and were extremely frustrated by the limited options.
"We were told there was a 20-year waiting list," Mr Gordon said.
"In Tassie there's a bit over 700 rooms for NDIS participants, and when it's fully rolled out there'll be 11,500 people on the NDIS, so you've got an idea of the sort of demand there is."
Ralph Doedens — who was the chief executive officer of disability support provider Mosaic Support Services at the time — was also at the meeting.
"We were overwhelmed. We had so many families speak up and say where can they get accommodation for their loved ones," he said.
He distinctly remembers Mr Gordon addressing the crowd.
"He stood up and he said, 'Why can't we do that ourselves; why do we have to wait for somebody else to do that?'"
Mr Gordon came up with his own solution to the problem.
"The NDIS basically doesn't fund housing, so I got together a group of colleagues … all of whom had an interest in trying to solve the problem," he said.
Parents grapple with dying before dependents
With the pro-bono help of accounting firm KPMG, the group put together a business case for affordable, supported accommodation and started pitching to institutional investors, like super funds.
"The business case found that if we could build this sort of accommodation then it would give a reasonable return to institutional investors, that it would enable much better standard of accommodation for people on the NDIS," he said.
"And for the charities that provide the care in the units, it would provide them with a better rate of return as well."
The group then sought advice from carers, clients and families on how the units should be built.
"We had a couple of rules, the first one being it would have to be a house that you or I would be happy to live in.
"The second was it had to have much lower maintenance and cleaning costs."
They came up with a design and created a property trust, called the Supported Affordable Accommodation Trust, to construct a series of two-bedroom modular units.
First three units installed, 24 more on the way
The Trust has since attracted a $6 million federal grant to acquire land and develop nine sites, each with three two-bedroom units and staff quarters.
The units are built in a factory at Cambridge, east of Hobart, and then transported to a parcel of land, which helps keep costs to a minimum.
"We don't lose any time through bad weather. You can see in this factory how convenient it is. The homes are just put in a production line and rolled out," Mr Doedens said.
The first site, in the Hobart suburb of Glenorchy, is now a reality and will be managed by Mosaic Support Services as a respite facility.
Mr Doedens said the accommodation model was also expected to be rolled out interstate, with talks already underway with service providers in regional New South Wales.
"There's over half a million people on the NDIS nationally and a lot of them are looking for homes as well," he said.
He said that in Tasmania alone, it was estimated that at least 500 more affordable two-bedroom units would be required in the disability sector over the next five to 10 years.
The first clients are expected to move in to the Glenorchy accommodation by Christmas.
'People can see the change in him'
While Jack Gordon has managed to find accommodation elsewhere, he is proud of what his dad has achieved at Glenorchy.
"The houses are pretty good, very proud," he said.
For Dianne and Bob, there is peace of mind that Jack and other Tasmanians will have the opportunity to live an independent life.
Jack's mum, Dianne, said having a child with disabilities leave home was one of the hardest things a parent usually had to face.
"In our case, our son thought it would be easier if we left home and he stayed," she said with a laugh.
"For others, there's no choice. The parents are elderly, they can no longer look after the person that they've been caring for most of their lives, and it becomes a really hard struggle to find somewhere appropriate."
Dianne Snowden said Jack had come out of his shell with his newfound independence.
"He would always hide away a bit from people that he knew. If he saw one of his schoolmates in the street or a family friend, he'd put his head down. But now he engages with them. He's a lot more confident. People can see the change in him. He's blossomed."
"He's no longer a child, he's 28, but he still needs support and care. But he's thriving."