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Pensioners will lose out if housing funding scrapped

The expected scrapping of the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) in the May budget, as reported by The Australian recently, could have a significant impact for pensioners according to affordable housing body, National Shelter. 

Cancelling the affordable housing scheme could leave pensioners worse off (Source: Shutterstock)
Cancelling the affordable housing scheme could leave pensioners worse off (Source: Shutterstock)

“We feel changes could well leave pensioners worse off,” says Adrian Pisarski, National Shelter Executive Officer. “If following the Commission of Audit line of thinking, pensioners could be up for $6000 worse off.”

The NAHA was launched in 2009 with the aim of ensuring all Australians had access to affordable, safe and sustainable housing that contributes to social and economic participation.

However, according to the figures in the recently released 2017 Report on Government Services, The Australian reports the supply of affordable housing has actually gone backwards by 16,000 homes.

While Mr Pisarski didn’t think the NAHA was well conceived and has not been well managed, he feels axing the only funding for public housing and homelessness services without discussion, consultation or any alternative plan amounts to vandalism against many of the most vulnerable in our community.

“The Government is trying to reassure us but the public statements aren’t as reassuring as they should be,” he says. 

“We need a national plan which supports social housing, homelessness and addresses housing affordability more generally through attracting private and public investment and broader reforms of planning, taxation and tenant rights at state levels. This is not an either or situation, we need every tool at our disposal, including a reformed NAHA.”

Council of the Ageing Chief Executive Ian Yates says he’ll be interested to see what the actual decisions are regarding the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS), and what the review shows about achievements.

Launched by the Government in 2008 with the aim of increasing the supply of new and affordable rental dwellings, an incentive is issued to housing providers to provide affordable rental dwellings at least 20 percent below market rates.

Mr Yates says the preliminary view has been that there were significant issues with the NRAS design and implementation, but that the need is still there so the program should be redesigned and more tightly implemented.

“It is not widely recognised that public housing now effectively excludes older people unless they have other high priority characteristics,” he says. 

“Rather than just focus on NRAS our effort is to emphasise the need for a variety of policy responses to the need for more affordable housing; to particularly emphasise the need for older Australians housing needs to be given equal priority.”

The 2016 Anglicare Australia Rental Affordability Snapshot report revealed on a national level, for a couple both on the aged pension only 4.3% of all properties would be affordable. If a person was living alone on the aged pension, only 2.1 per cent of properties were appropriate and affordable.

Executive Director of Anglicare Australia Kasy Chambers says Anglicare Australia is calling for a plan for more social housing, not less. “We would welcome the opportunity to work the three levels of government and with housing providers to create such a plan and put it in place,” she says.

Many providers across Australia are working to address this shortage of low cost retirement housing options; Anglicare, James Brown Memorial Trust, BaptistCare and Wintringham Housing are just some of the many offering affordable living options. 

Just recently, South Australian provider ACH Group’s latest release includes one and two-bedroom units in Magill, near Adelaide, fully fitted out for independent, disability accessible living priced from $82,000.

ACH Group Real Estate Services Senior Manager Nat Johncock says there is growing demand in South Australia, particularly from single women and people with mortgage liabilities or limited superannuation payments, to access secure, affordable housing for their lifetime. 

Ray Creen, ACH Group Chief Executive Officer, confirms ACH Group aims to meet this need by releasing housing at prices that are within reach along with flexible contract options to allow a closer match to a purchaser’s budget.

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