Housing Older Australians: Loss of home ownership and pathways into housing assistance

In Australia and other ‘homeownership societies’ it has been conventional to think of housing pathways in terms of a smooth linear progression, leading to outright ownership in middle age and a retirement buffered by low housing costs. This vision of the welfare role of home ownership is an important buttress of Australian retirement incomes policy. However, this vision has been challenged in recent years as growing numbers of older Australians lose home ownership and consequently transition onto housing assistance programmes. Using Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey data we analyse pathways into housing assistance. A transition model is estimated that specifies older Australians’ pathway to housing assistance status as a function of key socioeconomic and demographic determinants such as wealth and debt, health, marital status, tenure and employment history programmes. We find that those losing home ownership have a higher chance of becoming users of housing assistance programmes than similarly positioned longer-term renters, a result that is particularly evident among ex-owners that are exposed to adverse biographical events.