Sunshine Coast needs more housing for people with intellectual disability, says USC researcher


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PhD student Cate Macmillan with one of the awards she won for her research at the recent Pacific Rim Real Estate Society conference

Researcher explores housing for adults with an intellectual disability

A University of the Sunshine Coast academic is conducting research to help tackle the region’s pressing need for independent housing for adults with an intellectual disability.

PhD student Cate MacMillan is investigating which areas on the Sunshine Coast could provide safe and suitable environments for this housing, with the aim of developing a framework to guide local planning schemes.

The three-year study will involve interviews with adults aged between 18 and 40 with an intellectual disability, parents, and industry and service providers such as mortgage brokers.

Mrs Macmillan said there had been a shift in recent years towards people with an intellectual impairment living in private homes rather than institutions, but most of these situations which offered independent living went undocumented.

“Right now, it’s just individuals with the finances or the nous who are trying to create a workable arrangement for their child with an intellectual disability,” she said.

“It’s been recognised that adults with intellectual disability who live independently are experiencing better quality of life outcomes.

“The situations that seem to work well are where parents have bought a house, their child lives there and there’s some incentive for someone without a disability to live in the house with them.

“For the most part, people with an intellectual disability want the same things from their living arrangements as anyone leaving home: accommodation that is safe, affordable, and accessible to community facilities and employment.”

Mrs Macmillan presented her research in front of dozens of international academics at the recent Pacific Rim Real Estate Society Conference held at USC, where she won awards for Best First Time Presenter and one of two PhD scholarships for the conference, valued at up to $1,500.

Mrs MacMillan said she had uncovered steps that town planners and councils could take to better meet the needs of adults with an intellectual disability.

“So far, what I’ve found is that on the Sunshine Coast there is a severe lack of housing in appropriate places,” she said.

“One factor that needs to be considered is having street signs that are not only in written form. Having simple pictures for signs to shops or libraries could make a huge difference to intellectually disabled people.  

“A strong sense of community is another important factor, and things like six-foot fences or drive-in garages attached to houses can be detrimental to that.”

Mrs Macmillan’s research is being supervised by Lecturer in Regional and Urban Planning Dr Nicholas Stevens, who works with USC’s Centre for Human Factors and Sociotechnical Systems.  

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