How grandparents are helping as rents soar

Spiralling rents loom large among the many challenges faced by older Australians in recent years. In some cases, the rent increases have caused problems. In others, older Australians have been part of the solution, coming to the rescue of younger family members.

To paraphrase the great David Byrne, frontman of the band Talking Heads, how did we get here? And, more importantly, what can we do to help ourselves – and others – through this turbulence?

The road to anxiety through higher rents

The onset of the COVID pandemic in 2020 brought with it many issues. Initially, most of these were centred around health but, as it extended to months and then years, other concerns arose.

Lockdowns meant changes to work arrangements, cancellation of leisure activities and job losses. Then prices started rising and, inevitably, interest rates followed suit. They continue to rise to this day.

As interest rates rise, so do mortgage repayments. For those who have investment properties, there are basically two options: absorb the higher costs or pass them on. Not all landlords have passed on those costs but those who have, have done so by raising rents.

This has affected renters of all ages. For some of the young, this has meant moving to shared accommodation, or back home to mum and dad’s place. In some cases it has even meant moving not to the parents’ house, but the grandparents’ place.

Innovative solutions

Isis Pattison is one such person to take advantage of the generosity of an older family member, her grandmother Debbie. Debbie discovered that Isis was looking at paying $370 a week to rent what was described as a ‘yurt’.

Traditionally, a yurt is a portable, round tent. Debbie did not want to see her granddaughter paying $370 a week for a glorified tent. So she invited Isis to live with her. It proved to be a win-win situation.

Debbie, too, had been hit by rising costs, and she’d been on her own in the house for eight years. Isis moving in and contributing to the cost of utilities and food eased the financial strain and the loneliness.

Both have expressed their gratitude.

“It’s a big help. I’m grateful and happy that she’s here. I think my standard of living is a little bit better. I’ve got the heating on now,” Debbie said.

Isis, meanwhile, is loving spending more time with her grandmother. “I think it really works for us as well,” she said. 

What about older renters?

Some older renters have been forced into the opposite scenario. Faced with soaring rents, they’ve moved in with their adult children or grandchildren. As an older renter myself, I have also been faced with recent rental pressures.

After getting divorced a decade ago, I shared a rental property with my adult son until recently. That changed in March when he decided to ‘go it alone’ and moved into an apartment.

For him, such a move was a good thing. It may have been a good thing for me, too, but it also meant covering the rent myself. As much as I loved the idea of converting his now vacant room into a library, staying wasn’t financially viable.

My solution has come somewhat out of left field. I have become a house and pet minder. I look after the pet and house of someone who has gone away for an extended period. This comes with its own challenges (such as finding storage for all my household goods) but the financial relief has been significant.

Ideally, I’ll do this for a year or so and then find a one-bedroom apartment back in my old inner Melbourne suburb.

It sounds good in theory, but interest rates went up again this month, as they have done almost every month in the past year.

Higher rates mean higher rents. Will I have priced myself out of the market when I seek to return in 2024? Time will tell. I’m lucky enough to have two adult sons who would be prepared to take me in as a fall-back option.

For other older people faced with rising rents, the challenges are far more serious.

Have you been affected by soaring rents? Or have you helped out a younger family member who has? Why not share your experience, or that of someone you know, in the comments section below?

Also read: Private rental market worsens for older renters

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.


  1. Earlier this month my landlord (through the agent) raised the rent $20 per week from 15 September.

    I’m on the single Age Pension, and even the increase due in September won’t cover this rise. My budget is ‘stretched’ tight enough as it is without this extra cost, and the cost of all ‘everyday’ items has increased, so I’m in an ever downward spiral.

    During the conversation with my property manager, she ‘suggested’ that I ‘get a job’ to cover the extra expense’. I replied to her that I haven’t been able to ‘work’ for any more than 8 hours per fortnight for the past 17 years, and that if she wanted to give me a job for the 8 hours a fortnight, I’d gladly accept it. But she declined to be drawn into the subject and said ‘no’.

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