NSW staring down crisis as more older people than ever before are renting or paying off a mortgage as they reach retirement age

The proportion of people over 55 and renting or paying off their mortgage in New South Wales is higher than ever before, according to analysis of the 2021 Census commissioned by Housing for the Aged Action Group (HAAG) and undertaken by researchers at Swinburne University of Technology, Western Sydney University and Curtin University.

In 2021, 240,000 people over 55 were renting privately, an increase of more than 100,000 from 137,000 in 2011. Private renters made up 11.2% of over 55s, an increase from 8.5% in 2011. Of these private renters, 26% were in the lowest income quintile and had household incomes less than $40,000 per year. These older people are battling to find affordable homes in a housing market where vacancy rates are low and rents are rising. In Sydney over the last 12 months, the rental asking price for a two-bedroom unit has increased by 24% to $616 per week.

It’s a similar story for mortgagees. In 2021 470,000 over 55s were still paying off their mortgages, an increase of 177,000, from a decade ago. Mortgagees accounted for 22.2% of overs 55s in 2011, up from 18.5% in 2011.

The analysis comes after the New South Wales Government failed to support key recommendations from its own Inquiry into Homelessness among people older than 55. It did not support the Inquiry’s recommendations that it provide a specific housing and support service for older people, and to lower the priority age for social housing.

HAAG Executive Officer Fiona York says the Census data points to how housing stress and homelessness has changed over the past decade, and why it’s so urgent the state government recognises this shift.

“When people are still renting or paying off their mortgage as they get close to and enter retirement, it places them at much greater risk of homelessness,” she says.

“Both our retirement system, and the way support is provided for people in housing crisis in New South Wales, has not been designed for a world where growing numbers of older people retire without owning their home.

“To prevent disaster for a growing number of older people, the government must act now.”

HAAG is calling for the government to listen to the recommendations of the Inquiry and:

  • Fund a specialist older people’s housing service.
  • Lower the priority age for social housing from 80 years.
  • Build more Public, Community and Affordable housing.