The cost of housing is an issue across the country but one group is being affected more severely than any other, with experts claiming senior Australians are being left with no choice but to relocate to regional areas in order to find property they can afford to rent.
As a result, older Aussies are being forced to leave behind the neighbourhoods they are familiar with and move further away from their loved ones due to the lack of affordable housing in metropolitan areas, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne.
Other issues such as a lack of services to support an ageing community, including no large or specialist hospitals, also contribute to a much larger problem.
Steve Bevington, Managing Director of Community Housing Limited (CHL) Group, Australia’s largest community and affordable housing provider, spoke to Starts at 60 about what needs to be done to improve the current situation, particularly as Australia’s ageing population continues to grow.
“Older people are having to move to the back of beyond, to where they can afford the rent and live a sustainable life – but where are the massive great hospitals to meet the needs of older people?
“They are moving out to places where there are no hospitals and where they can afford the rent – because they can’t afford it close to where their children live – and there is then a major cost for services and the local government can’t pay for them and everything starts to go wrong.
“It’s all because the government has never bothered to have a housing policy over the last 40 years – apart from one at federal level.”
These claims are backed up by recent research conducted by Anglicare Australia, which found that of 67,365 properties listed for rent in March 2018, just 833 were considered affordable and appropriate for single pensioners.
Bevington is now calling on local, state and federal governments to plan more effectively when it comes to affordable housing, pointing out the lack of affordable housing policies and highlighting the need for state and local governments to implement inclusionary zoning policies, meaning and development would have to include a proportion of affordable homes.
“The affordability crisis isn’t happening in the country, it’s happening in the metropolitan areas. So if an older person is living in a middle-ring suburb of one of the major metropolitan areas and they want to continue living there, they need to occupy a new property which is affordable.
“For that to occur there needs to be a big affordable housing programme, from whichever government gets in. Then state governments need to bring in these inclusionary state wide zoning policies.
“Finally local government needs to be pushed to have mandatory affordable housing, that is the way these older Australians can stay in their areas. If that doesn’t happen they will be pushed out to regional areas, they will be pushed out to urban fringe areas and they will be away from the people they know and away from their support systems.”
In December, Labor leader Bill Shorten vowed to build 250,000 affordable new units and houses over the next 10 years – a figure which, while it’s a start, Bevington says is about half the number currently needed.
He added: “The ALP is the first policy for 12 years that’s been announced by a federal party, it’s the biggest policy for more than 40 years but it’s only half of what is needed now. And the other parties don’t even have a policy.”
Jason Cubit, from Horizon Housing, part of CHL, added: “Over our 25 year history, Horizon Housing has identified an increasing trend in demand for housing from older people, particularly older single women. But the reality is homelessness is an alarming and very likely possibility for many seniors, more so than ever before.”
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