New South Wales Government’s response to homelessness inquiry will leave older people languishing without homes

Older people in New South Wales waiting for social housing were dealt a blow today, with the NSW Government failing to support a recommendation by one of its own inquires that the priority age for social housing be lowered.

The Inquiry into homelessness among people older than 55, chaired by Nationals MLC Scott Barrett and drawing a majority of its members from the Coalition, recommended in its final report that the government investigate lowering the priority age for social housing from 80 to 55 years.

In the government’s response to the inquiry, released today, it did not support the recommendation despite the inquiry report finding that the 'face' of homelessness is changing and older people are increasingly being caught up in the housing crisis.

Lowering the priority age for social housing was one of a number of policy changes called for by NSW Ageing on the Edge Forum and endorsed in the Inquiry’s final report.

NSW Ageing on the Edge Forum is a coalition of about 140 members and supporters, including housing, homelessness and community sector organisations, peak bodies, and older people who know what it’s like to be in housing crisis.

Housing for the Aged Action Group (HAAG) coordinates the Forum and Executive Officer Fiona York says the government’s response is a missed opportunity to address the growing number of older people in New South Wales falling into homelessness.

“The NSW Government doesn’t believe that a 79-year-old woman in housing crisis deserves a spot on the priority housing list,” York says

“This decision comes at a time when it routinely takes longer than five years, and often more than 10 years, for people on social housing waitlists in New South Wales to get a home.

“We’re shocked that after the Inquiry found that older people in housing crisis were slipping through the cracks, the government would not support the Inquiry’s recommendations to provide them with additional help.”

The government also did not support the Inquiry’s recommendation that it develop a specialist housing and support service for older people that would provide both early intervention and a crisis response. In Victoria people over 55 are considered a priority for social housing and have access to an information and support service specific and targeted to their needs. Given the success of the model, it was adopted in Queensland.

“The harsh truth is if you’re an older person in housing crisis in New South Wales, then you’re worse off than those in a similar situation in Victoria,” York says.