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Calls to safeguard the future of housing for older Australians

The looming housing crisis faced by older Australians is complex and multifaceted. Rising rental prices, the increasing number of seniors retiring with a mortgage, the vulnerability of single older women, and an inadequate supply of appropriate housing all contribute to what one expert describes as a ‘ticking time bomb’ for older Australians.

Older Australians are increasingly falling through the cracks in the growing housing affordability and supply challenge (Source: Shutterstock)

In an effort to drill down to the core of the issue, Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia hosted a housing policy summit in Canberra this week, bringing together experts, policy makers and advocacy groups.

They discussed new ways to address the changing housing needs of older Australians including affordability, housing security and access to appropriate housing options, now and in the future.

“Older Australians are increasingly falling through the cracks in the growing housing affordability and supply challenge, with a growing number of older Australians needing to rent, rather than owning a home outright,” says Ian Yates, Chief Executive of COTA Australia.

He says sadly older Australians are in many respects the forgotten faces of the housing crisis. “We are already starting to see rates of home ownership by older Australians decline, and this is forecasted to drop even further in the next 10-15 years.

“This trend is already exerting extra pressure on the rental market and on many older Australians who are struggling to pay their rent, while also juggling other rising expenses like energy, Mr Yates adds.

The 2017 Rental Affordability Snapshot report by Anglicare Australia painted a dire picture for older Australian renters, as it found only 6 percent of the market was affordable for a single older person living on the Age Pension.

“There is a whole group of people currently in their 50’s and 60’s who will be retiring as renters, or if they are lucky enough to own a house, are facing the prospect of retiring with a mortgage,” Mr Yates says.

Keynote speaker, John Daley, CEO of the Grattan Institute, warns there are more storm clouds on the horizon for older Australians and housing related issues expected to hit older Australians over the next two decades include:

  • Falling rates of home ownership
  • Rising rental prices and a hostile private rental property market
  • Scarcity in social and community housing
  • Increasing number of older Australians retiring with a mortgage
  • Rental housing not fit for or secure enough to meet the physical needs of older people
  • Inadequate supply of suitable housing for older people to downsize, while remaining in or close to their pre-­‐existing community

He describes the looming housing crisis as a ‘ticking time bomb’ for older citizens.

“We must address these issues immediately if we want to stand a fighting chance to mitigate the severity of the looming housing affordability crisis and to safeguard the future of older Australians before it is too late,” Mr Daley says.

“We are dealing with a vastly different economic landscape than 10 years ago,” Mr Yates says.

“Policy makers must come up to speed with the key issues and trends in housing for older Australians, including re-­‐evaluating assumptions about home ownership that underpin age pension policy.”


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