Its a new world for residents of units

LIVING independently has opened up “a new world” for Rebekah Baldez since she moved into specialist disability accommodation in Wickham.

Ms Baldez lives in one of 24 specialised units in the Eaton on Union and Stella on Wickham apartments created in 2019 by property developer Thirdi in partnership with disability service provider, Aruma, and iNSiTU Housing to offer homes for people living with disability in Newcastle.

The units have a 100 per cent occupancy rate.

Following the success of Wickham, Aruma, iNSiTU Housing, and Thirdi plan to roll out a similar model in the Dairy Farmers Towers in Newcastle West with 10 specialist disability units planned for the project which is due for completion in 2025. It will also be introduced in other regions including North Gosford and Taree in 2023.

The units offer features such as wide door frames, motorised height adjustable benches, provisions for ceilings hosts and grab rails, and are assistive technology ready.

Residents have access to multiple common spaces, including rooftop gardens. “Before coming to live in my current apartment, I often couldn’t get in and out of the house easily,” Ms Baldez said.

“Now that I can both access my own home and live independently, a new world has opened up and it means I’m able to do so much more. “I’ve even been able to secure employment.”

With Australia expected to experience a shortage of over 100,000 homes by 2027, iNSiTU Housing chief housing officer Rosie Trantham said the need for specialist homes had never been more important.

“We’re incredibly proud to have recently announced that Stella and Eaton are now at a 100 per cent occupancy rate,”Ms Trantham said.

The apartments available via iNSiTU Housing feature Aruma’s new co-living shared support model which offers residents with a disability to have access to on-call support from Aruma staff.

Caitlyn Morrissey is also a resident of the development at Wickham.

Ms Morrissey spent three years searching for accommodation to suit her needs before securing an apartment in the city.

She said features such as electric doors and being able to use her own supports ensured she could live


“It’s a better option than the group home accommodation because it allows me to live my life as independently as possible,” she said.

According to the NDIS’ specialist disability accommodation (SDA) 2021/22 quarter four report, there are more than 19,000 NDIS participants with SDA supports, however, there are only 7000 SDA homes.

While the number of homes continues to rise each quarter, so does the expected number of NDIS participants.

“In Newcastle and its surrounds, we have seen a growing need for specialised housing and by partnering with others, Aruma can be part of the solution,” Aruma CEO Dr Martin Laverty said.