One million affordable homes, but will any be accessible to older people?

It’s hard to see how the Federal Government’s plan to address Australia’s housing crisis, including its new accord with the states and territories, will help older people without a home, according to Housing for the Aged Action Group (HAAG).

The measures, unveiled in last night’s budget, include an ambition to build one million “new well located homes” over five years from 2024, a commitment to build another 10,000 new affordable homes in addition to the 30,000 already announced, and a commitment from the states and territories to build another 10,000. Also budgeted was a Help to Buy Scheme, and Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee. It is not clear how many of these homes, if any, will be public housing.

While Labor’s recognition that something must be done to tackle the nation’s housing crisis is welcome, many older people won’t be able to access many of their solutions, HAAG Executive Officer Fiona York says.

“These policies often require having savings to draw upon, or being able to access a mortgage, and we know that for many older people, especially older women, this just isn’t an option,” York says.
“Now these older women are left to compete in the housing market with people who can access these inflationary policies.”

Research shows there are more than 400,000 women aged 45 and over who are at risk of homelessness. Last year more than 13,000 women over 55 came to homelessness services seeking support.
Speaking to the National Press Club today, Treasurer Jim Chalmers acknowledged people need help before 2024, and pointed to indexation increases to income support payments, and increases to the minimum wage. That’s not enough for the older women who need support today, York says.

“The rental market is so tight right that those increases to the pension from indexation are less than the increases to rent we’ve seen over the past 12 months. Older people are left worse off,” York says.
“Raising the minimum wage is great, but it won’t help older women who retire with little or no super, and are spending more than 80% of their income support on rent.”

HAAG is calling on the Federal Government to commit to building more public and community housing not simply “well-located” housing that may or may not be truly affordable, with a portion allocated to older people. We support calls to increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance so people who rely on income support, and particularly older women, have more income left after rent to afford essentials like food and medicine.