This is Australia... of course you will find a wheelchair accessible house in Sydney

I am letting you know about my ordeal dealing with real estate agents around Sydney, trying to find a house suitable for myself and my family. Oh by the way I am in a wheelchair.

I am 40 years old, have cerebral palsy, am a drummer, who works within a lot of the disability service providers around Australia. Over the past 10 years I have created a bit of a stir all over the world from drummers alike... media circles (such as drumming magazines, disability journals, newspapers) and the disability arts sector. I have appeared in magazines in the USA, UK, Canada, Poland and here in Australia regularly, and have released a short DVD which has had rave reviews all across the globe.

But when it comes to me trying to get help... there just isnt anyone out there...

I recently married my long time partner, and have become the step dad to 2 wonderful boys aged 16 and 22. This is when all the trouble started...

We received an eviction notice for a flat in Matraville that I have been living in for the past 9 years. It wasnt a perfect living arrangement, but over the 9 years of living here I had become accustomed to it. We were supposed to have been out of here on the 27th December 2009. It is now the 6th January and we havent moved yet.

Since October, we have been looking constantly at houses all over Sydney, quite often to find we are met with many steps either getting into the house or inside the house. A house may look flat on the outside, but could be split level on the inside. Real estate websites dont usually tell you much detail so you have to find out for yourselves.

The other day we rang a real estate to enquire about a house at Katoomba, asked about steps, and were told no, the house is flat... only to drive an hour and a half, to find out that the house had half a dozen stairs at the front and half a dozen at the back, and a few internals.
Real Estate agents dont seem to cater for people in wheelchairs. They dont seem to understand a person in a wheelchairs needs. When you apply for a house, you are also applying along with 100 other people and usually the person in the wheelchair misses out.

Compassion has seemed to have vanished from the real estate industry. With this housing crisis in Sydney, it all comes down to one thing... MONEY!

I have spoken to Housing NSW about this problem on a number of occasions, but am shocked to hear that its all too hard for them to find a place for a person in a wheelchair.

We were told we could fill out all the forms, get an Occupational Therapist, Physiotherapist and my GP to fill out assessments, then we could get on the priority housing list, but this list is 6 years long.

And they cant guarantee you a place in that time either.

The disability service providers all re-direct me back to Housing NSW.

Everyone seems to have put it all in the too hard basket.
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16 Comments

charlemagne 2yrs+
I can totally sympathize with your plight. I am quadriplegic, working full time and renting. It took me four months to find the place in which I live now but the new owner wants to move in at the end of my lease in less than three months from now. In my previous apartment, I was paying 95% of my salary to pay for the rent only and drawing on my savings to cover bills and food. In my current unit, I pay "only" 60% of my salary on rent.

With a tight rental market in Sydney, the Real Estate agents don't need to make any effort to please the customers as they just need to organize a few open-houses and pick the most hassle-free application.
I need to find someone to accompany me to those open houses as I have no idea how accessible it's going to be just to get to the front door, let alone inside. I always call the agent first but there doesn't seem to be much point in asking the agent how accessible the place is because, as you said, you could drive vast distances to find out that the agent just gave you some random false information.

I don't think that I have ever come across a house that was really accessible so I have been concentrating on modern apartments. The older ones are rarely accessible, and many of the modern ones now are fashionably split-level so that doesn't help much either but some of the modern apartments can, by chance usually, be quite accessible.

I was pleased to find out that in some larger new developments, the council requires the developer to build a certain number of accessible dwellings. This is great news although I found out that it was made close to useless because there is no requirement to make those dwellings available to those who actually need them: people with reduced mobility and especially those in wheelchairs. In one recent large development I visited, all of the accessible apartments (all situated on the ground floor) had been rented out to the Department of Defence or reserved for the local council, leaving nothing available for people with a disability. After I put a deposit on a not so accessible apartment on an upper floor instead, the Real Estate agent decided to refuse my application and return my deposit because I would need to use the lift and that it was not desirable in case of a fire or another emergency and they didn't want to take the responsability.

In my case, the Department of Housing is not interested in helping because I am working and therefore not eligible for their assistance. I have also asked several disablity associations for help in my previous attempt at finding accessible accommodation but the only thing they could suggest was a kind of institutionalised housing whereas I am trying to live a "normal" kind of life renting in the community to house my son and myself.

The only thing that I can see that would make a difference would be to force the councils to keep a register of the accessible dwellings that they required the developers to offer AND to force them to offer those dwellings to those they were designed for. The State government people that I have talked to have said that it was a council matter, not a state governement matter, so the difficulty is to apply pressure on each individual council.
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drummerstix 2yrs+
Thanks for your reply, yeah seems that us people in wheelchairs are often forgotten about... or quite often put in the too hard basket. Im lucky I have my wife and 2 boys living with me, if I was on my own I just wouldnt cope.

I was hoping to go back to work (IT), but... if I do I lose all of my entitlements, including dept of housing, so it leaves very little incentive.

Went into the DOH at Maroubra the other day, as absolute last resort, we would rather rent privately. The guy we dealt with was rude, he told my wife that "people in wheelchairs are left field, they dont belong anywhere", then he proceeded to tell my wife... with me sitting there.. as if I didnt exist.... The solution would be to put me in a 1 bedroom unit on my own, and then find a place for my wife and the rest of my family.

What can you do? Applying for private means you are competing against 100 other applicants.. who most likely have 2 or 3 incomes, and Department of Housing say they have a 10 year wait for wheelchair accessible housing.

It's starting to become a very scary reality that we may end up living in a bus shelter.
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joml 2yrs+
I hope that both of you found accommodation... I am passionate about accessible housing. I married a man a few years ago who has motor neurone disease and he is surviving way beyond everyone's predictions, which is fantastic for us but has caused a few issues with housing. It's virtually impossible to find a wheelchair accessible place (we need big time accessible.. ie commode in bathroom) in the private rental market. We live in an old converted hospital with independent apartments and carers on site, an absolute God-send for us, but that's being knocked down for town houses and the care provider is supposedly going to rehome us all. So we have 9 months to find somewhere. And yes, Dept of Housing only works on a low income although you can still apply if you don't meet the income requirements on the basis of needing accessible accommodation. I want to become an activist in this area. It is extremely worrying. I don't know what people do.
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BFremlin Jan 17, 2016
I have a similar problem, although I have time. I am not quite wheelchair reliant YET, but am very close. I rely on a wheelchair outside of the home and can use a walking frame inside my current private rental. That is changing rapidly. By this time next year I will be totally reliant on a wheelchair.

My current rental has stairs front (9 steps) and back - the back has 2 sets, one of 4 and the other of 11 steps. The landlord says he's going to re-do the back deck and 4 steps. When I asked if he would CONSIDER putting in a ramp I was told that there's no benefit for him and it would cost too much.

There is one other big problem - I can barely get my walker into the bathroom or through the back door. So getting a wheelchair through? Forget it.

I have been a loyal tenant for 7 years - and haven't complained about the myriad of things I could (like black mold throughout since I moved in, hot water service constantly breaking down, windows which don't actually close to name a few). I know the agent and landlord only care about money (as evidenced by the putting my rent up annually on Christmas Day).

I gave myself 18 months from the last rent increase notice in October 2015 to find a wheelchair friendly, reasonably priced house for rent in the Eastern Creek area. So far I have found nothing.

If anyone or there can help (or just give friendly encouragement), it would be greatly appreciated.

Also, my parents are looking for wheelchair accessible place to rent as well - separate from me - my dad is wheelchair bound.
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BFremlin Feb 19, 2016
Hi MichaelP2,

I would greatly appreciate if you could let me know if you find any wheelchair accessible rentals. Could you please advise which real estate agents you at with? I'd like to be able to keep up to date on rentals. (We will never be able to afford to buy). We have been in our current rental for 7 years next month.
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BeachsideH Jun 29, 2016
Hello, we have a two-storey house for rent on the Northern Beaches designed specially for wheelchair access on the top floor (bedroom, bathroom, lounge, kitchen, deck, garden). It's level access from the garage. If you need more information do pls call 0450 443 617. Thanks.
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zaraw Oct 01, 2016
Hi all, desperate to find accommodation for my mum, full time wheelchair bound. Ideally a 3 bedroom house with yard for 2 small dogs. Willing to consider all locations in Sydney!! Any help would be greatly appreciated. 0400808727. Zara
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joml Oct 09, 2016
I posted earlier on this thread. We ended up getting an accessible house in Brookvale with Housing, it came up miraculously when we most needed it.. however I DID end up finding an accessible half-house which we nearly rented (the Govt told us to hold off because the house we are now living in became available). I want to set up a charity raising awareness and identifying positive ways to address accessible housing issues..but for those looking.. the KEY questions to ask a real estate agent are.. 1) IS THERE A HOBLESS SHOWER? 2) ARE THERE ANY STEPS ON THE PROPERTY?... BFremlin.. I hope you move, as you should not put up with black mould, it's a health hazard, you deserve better than that, believe it! Anyone who wants to set up a charity with me, please call me 0404 439 538.
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lynd2 Mar 21, 2017
I have the same problem with wheelchair acces houses the house that were renting is not suitable for my son the bathroom is too small now .im on a rent subsidy by housing new south wales a single mum with a14year old son who is down and with cerebral palsy im hoping i could find a house in ashfield area that is really suitable for us .housing cant provide for us weve been waiting for more than ten years . With no relatives here its been very hard for us . Thank God ive got few friends .
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drummerstix Mar 21, 2017
It was 7 years since I posted this originally... and we are about to start looking for rental properties again... sadly the same fear still exists... the fear of ending up homeless... wheelchair properties still don't exist... and the flat houses there are... landlords are reluctant to rent to wheelchair users... something has to change :)
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joml Mar 21, 2017
I really feel for your situation. I would suggest doing everything you can to push your case with housing. Don't let another year go by. Call them monthly. Get another OT assessment. Have you talked to disability providers? They might have some options. Get an advocate who can help to flag your case with housing. Are you classified as high priority? You need to get that classification. Don't limit the area either. The trick with rentals is to ask if the property has a hobless shower. Some owners will go out of their way to help you others will dismiss you but trust in those who will help. Believe in your right for accessible housing and keep pushing for it. Some real estate agents will actively keep an eye out for you for wheelchair properties. Write to your local MP. Good luck!
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Sharon-lee Orchin Aug 06, 2017
It's disappointing to read the comments in this thread, especially basic misinformation such as 'the property has no steps' only for you to arrive at an inspection and find there are!

After completing major renovations at my Northmead apartment, it is now on the market.

It is an open plan, oversized, ground floor, 2 bedroom commercial apartment, without a step in sight and I have copies the link below:

https://www.realestate.com.au/property-unit-nsw-northmead-125760286

Best of luck in your search to find suitable accommodation, I'm sorry to read of the difficultly in finding something suitable.

Regards,
Sharon
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nancyj1 Sep 20, 2017
I work in the disability sector and wanting to invest in properties to find a solution to this issue and have people with disability as my preferred tenants.
Please let me know if anybody would be keen to start a conversation to find a better solution to this issue.

Cheers,
Nancy
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joml Sep 20, 2017
Hi Nancy. I've had an idea for a while for a charity/website which would help people with disabilities find wheelchair accessible homes, lobby on this issue and allow those with accessible homes to advertise their properties.. there's no one organisation bringing it all together at the moment.. it's really all networking and different charitable bodies. Email me on [email protected] if this is something you'd be interested in. Best wishes Jo
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cindyl3 Sep 20, 2017
Hello Nancy,
Yes, I am very interested.
My contact details
[email protected]
Look forward to hearing from you.
Regards,
Cindy Lee🌺
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nancyj1 Sep 21, 2017
Hi Sharon Lee,

I would be interested in getting in contact with you.
my email is: [email protected]

Cheers,
Nancy
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