Outrage at ‘hogging houses’ claim

Senior groups are outraged after a Monash University report released on Monday implied that older Australians should move out of their homes to make way for younger families.

The report, The housing affordability crisis in Sydney and Melbourne, suggested that unless older Australians living in the inner-city suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney moved out of their homes, there would be continued demand from young families looking for space in which to raise children. According to census data, up to 60 per cent of freestanding houses are currently occupied by Australians aged 50 and over.

National Seniors Australia Chief Executive Michael O’Neill has criticised the notion that older people should vacate their own homes to make way for younger families, describing it as “offensive” and “ludicrous”.  

He added that many older people bought their homes 30 or 40 years ago in what were once considered lower-class areas, and that they had worked and saved and paid up to 18 per cent interest on home loans throughout the 80s just to own them.

“It’s their castle,” said Mr O’Neill.

He also stated that social isolation was a serious risk as people aged and if older people were displaced from their communities they would lose important links vital for mental and physical health, including ties to doctors, pharmacists, neighbours and local shops.

Council on the Ageing (COTA) Chief Executive Ian Yates believes that there are good reasons for older people wishing to stay put, such as proximity to family, social networks and actually having the space in which to look after their grandchildren.

Add to that the fact that asset-rich, though income-poor, older people could risk losing their pension upon the sale of their home, as the cash earned would then be taken into consideration when being assessed for pension eligibility under the current assets test system.

Read more at The Sydney Morning Herald
Read the The housing affordability crisis in Sydney and Melbourne report

Opinion: Hold on to your houses

Why should older Australians be made to feel bad for wanting to hold on to their dearest and most precious asset? They’ve worked hard all their lives to own their homes. They’ve struggled and saved and done the right thing in order to attain that elusive ‘Australian dream’. Why would they want to give that up? Why should they?

Honestly, when I read this report, it made me quite angry.

I immediately thought of my nan, who is an amazingly strong and independent woman, and has lived in the same house for over 40 years. My nan is in her 80s. My pa (bless him) passed on around 15 years ago. She has been living alone in the family home ever since and she has no intention of moving out soon. This was made especially apparent to me when I was talking to her a couple of weeks ago, and she was telling me how she’d had workers over restumping and sorting out the foundations of her house. When she was telling me this, the thought crossed my mind that she was looking to stay there for quite some time, and the news couldn’t have made me happier.

Now I’m talking about this from a personal standpoint, and I’m sure many Australians would have a similar view – that the family home, as important as it is to the occupants, is just as important to the generations that follow.

In a world where everything seems to be moving at an incredible pace, where sometimes, it feels as if it’s rapidly spinning out of control, the family home provides some semblance of stability. It is the foundation of a family.

Older Australians should be given credit for hanging on to their houses. Why should they give them up? So some developer or foreign investor can snatch it from them, tear it down, clear-fell the block, subdivide it and turn it into ugly apartments anyway?

Has it occurred to these academics that the only reason we still have freestanding houses is because older Australians are hanging on to the precious few that remain?

Besides, is it their fault that there aren’t enough freestanding homes available to accommodate young families? No, the responsibility rests with town planners and greedy developers who have razed similar properties to cram in apartments and townhouses with little or no space left for yards and greenery. Maybe this should have been a consideration during the 90s’ subdivision craze (which began in earnest in the 90s but has gathered momentum ever since).

If younger families want a backyard for their children, then why not visit the grandparents more often? It’s not as if most young families can truly afford a freestanding house within the city limits of Melbourne and Sydney anyway. That ship has sailed for many young people, and by now, it’s on the very distant horizon.

And honestly, what young family would begrudge their parents or grandparents holding onto the home that they’ve fought so long and hard to own and maintain? I certainly don’t know of any, and I would be surprised if most Australians did.

My nan’s house is almost as precious to me as it is to her. My fondest childhood memories occurred there. My happiest moments, cherished visions of my grandparents and the joy of being with family. I would be shattered if she sold her home. Is that selfish or overly sentimental of me? Maybe. But true nonetheless.

What I’m saying is that it’s all well and good for a report to look at statistics and sales figures and census data and state that older Australians are ‘hogging houses’, but what a report can’t do is estimate the true value of the family home. A value far beyond a backyard, far beyond the sale price and availability of similar properties.

The family home should be treasured, and no one should begrudge our parents and grandparents for wanting to retain the strong foundations of families Australia-wide.

So I say hold on to your houses and damn the academics. Your house is your home, it is your castle and the foundation upon which family is built.

What do you think of this report? Does it anger you that it suggests older people are standing in the way of young families being able to own a home? Or do you agree with the report? How would you solve the current housing crises in our big cities?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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