Adaptable Housing for People with Disability

Demonstrating how dwellings can be creatively designed and modified to adapt to people’s changing needs and circumstances.

There are 4.4 million people with disability in Australia, yet the availability of appropriate accessible housing remains a challenge.

Emerging from an Australian Research Council-funded linkage project with industry partner Housing Choices Australia, this completed design project in St Albans, Melbourne, rethinks design’s contributions to assisted living environments, ageing in place, and the wider challenges of affordable suburban housing and densification.

Monash Urban Lab worked alongside Housing Choices to research and design this low-rise, medium density, affordable apartment building which meets National Disability Insurance Scheme Specialist Disability Accommodation (NDIS SDA) standards and demonstrates how both existing and new dwellings can be more creatively designed and modified to adapt to people’s changing needs and circumstances.

In addition to the design project, the team produced a report considering the applicability and replicability of established design-informed approaches for flexibility and adaptation that have been successfully employed in other contexts (such as the home office or housing for multi-generational families) to retrofitting housing for people with disability, which would also benefit the whole community. Such an approach goes beyond function and accessibility to consider the qualities that create a dignity-enabling home environment. The report considers opportunities for architectural design practice and research to complement and improve current approaches to the modification and adaptation of existing housing stock for people with disability.

This report is structured in three parts:

  • Part 1: People with Disability and Housing provides an overview of the types of housing currently occupied by people with disability in Australia; the current approaches to and frameworks for the modification and adaptation of existing housing stock for universal access and added spatial flexibility; the legislative and policy frameworks in place in relation to housing; and the individualised funding and services available.
  • Part 2: Adaptable Housing: Design and Fabrication articulates ways in which design informed approaches (for example, adaptation, retrofitting and fabrication) can support and improve accessibility and broader amenity for people with disability, and at the same time provide benefits to people without disability, including but not limited to people with injuries and other health issues affecting mobility, pram users, and people with changing space usage needs.
  • Part 3: Challenges and Opportunities outlines opportunities for enhancing current approaches to the modification of existing housing stock through holistic design-informed improvements and innovations in this field. The discussion explores how systematic approaches to housing design, construction, modification and adaptation can facilitate accessibility as compared to one-off modifications for people with disability.