Housing crisis driving older Australians into homelessness

Jun 27, 2022
Homelessness on the rise amongst older Australians. Source: Getty

An inquiry in New South Wales (NSW) has found that the housing affordability crisis is pushing Australians over 55 into homelessness, stating that the issue will continue to worsen.

The Ageing on the Edge NSW Coalition submitted their inquiry to parliament, stating senior homelessness was already becoming an issue before recent global events.

“There is a significant shortage of social and affordable housing across NSW and the current COVID-19 related challenges and bushfires in 2019-20 among other issues exacerbated the demand for affordable housing,” the report read.

“Even before these crises, there was an increase in the experiences of homelessness among older people. From 2011 to 2016, the number of people aged 55 and over experiencing homelessness in NSW increased by 42% (from 4,529 to 6,407).”

Now, under the cost of living pressures, senior security is facing a triple threat with the number of available rentals shrinking and landlords raising rent prices to meet rising interest rates.

The inquiry, which found that more older Australians are having to rent in retirement, said the insecurity seniors are facing could see health risks worsening.

“With the decline in home ownership among older people, the NSW Intergenerational report indicates that if those who retire without owning a home require social housing at a similar rate to today’s retirees, this would increase demand for social housing by 68,000 households by 2060-61,” the report found.

“The report also highlights that there would also be consequences if this demand is not met, with those on the social housing waiting list typically experiencing acute housing stress.

“The cumulative effect of homelessness, poverty and disadvantage over long periods may result in people experiencing age-related health conditions from as early as 45 years of age.”

The report noted that its findings are likely a “gross underestimate because many older people do not identify as experiencing homelessness, do not disclose their housing situation due to shame and stigma, and therefore do not access mainstream housing and homelessness services”.

A review from the Retirement Living Council backed up the findings that women over the age of 55 are at the greatest risk of homelessness.

Retirement Living Council president Marie-Louise MacDonald said “there are potentially up to 240,000 women aged 55 and over who are at risk of homelessness and that a large portion of these are the ‘missing middle’”.

“Over the past decade there has been a 31 percent increase in women who are homeless, and it is the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia,” she said.

The Retirement Living – A Solution For Older Women at Risk of Homelessness report found that the number of older Australian women accessing homelessness services has increased by 63 per cent in the last five years.

The inquiry is calling for action on creating more secure housing for Australians over 55, as Treasurer Jim Chalmers warned the cost of living will continue to “go through the roof” after the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor Philip Lowe predicted inflation will hit 7 per cent by the end of the year.


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