Older Aussies left behind by both major parties

Shocking new research has revealed just how hard pensioners have it when trying to find an affordable home, and one group is calling for drastic action.

A single person living on the Age Pension can afford just one in every 1000 vacant rental properties in Australia, research shows.

With the election in just 18 days, charity group Anglicare Australia is calling on both sides of politics to prioritise affordable housing for seniors and, in particular, Age Pensioners.

Anglicare’s annual Rental Affordability Snapshot looks at what it’s like for those on low incomes to rent a home in Australia. This year’s edition reveals the two years of the pandemic have made it even harder for pensioners who rent.

Read: Record levels of working older Australians driving housing reform

The report found that a single Age Pensioner could afford just 0.1 per cent of rental vacancies nationwide, while couples could afford just 1.4 per cent.

This figure included those who qualify for Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA), where the maximum amount you can claim is a paltry $145.80 per fortnight.

“Housing is one of the biggest issues facing older Australians, but it’s still barely on the election radar,” says Anglicare executive director Kasy Chambers.

“Our Rental Affordability Snapshot shows that a person on the Age Pension can afford less than one per cent of rental listings across Australia. That includes the highest rate of rent assistance.”

Read: More than a third of public housing tenants are over 55

Little has been promised in the election campaign to address housing affordability from either major party, with both seemingly reluctant to see house prices drop in any way. What has been promised is aimed at younger first-home buyers and nothing has been introduced directed at the rental crisis.

Anglicare says the strongest action a government could take would be to greatly increase the housing supply to put downward pressure on prices.

“People are desperate for action,” Ms Chambers says.

“We’re calling on whoever wins the election to boost affordable housing. Our shortfall is massive. We need 500,000 new social and affordable rentals across Australia.

“We’re asking all parties and candidates to take action and help make sure that older Australians have the homes they deserve.”

Read: Key to lifting pensioner group out of poverty

The lack of affordable housing for older Australians has a devastating impact on society. Women aged 55 and over are the fastest growing group experiencing homelessness and the most likely to experience extreme housing stress.

In addition to increasing the housing supply, Anglicare says raising the rate of the Age Pension and rent assistance payment are crucial steps towards ensuring pensioners aren’t left behind.

“In 2020, poverty was largely eliminated in Australia when the government doubled the rate of JobSeeker and ensured that people who couldn’t work because of the pandemic had access to an adequate income through the JobKeeper program,” the report reads.

“The cost of these programs did not destroy the economy. They showed that leaving people in poverty, or lifting them out of it, is a policy choice that the Australian government can exercise.”

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Written by Brad Lockyer

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