Renting retirees finding life harder

The number of rental listings suitable for age pensioners has dropped dramatically, according to the most recent rental affordability snapshot released by Anglicare Australia.

YourLifeChoices’ 2019 Insights Survey found that 13.2 per cent of the 6731 respondents rent their home, and figures from the Centre for Independent Studies suggest as many as 25 per cent of age pensioners don’t own their own home.

Anglicare Australia is calling on federal and state governments to invest in housing for people on the lowest incomes after its latest snapshot found that the percentage of rental listings that were affordable and appropriate for a couple on the Age Pension dropped from a high of 4.4 per cent last year to just 3.2 per cent this year.

Single pensioners have it even worse, with less than one per cent of listings deemed suitable for their needs and budget.

For the past 10 years the Anglicare Australia Network has been testing the affordability of the private rental market for people on low incomes.

This year’s snapshot surveyed over 69,000 rental listings across Australia over one sample weekend, and found a chronic shortage of affordable rentals across Australia.

According to Anglicare, for most people on a low income, rent needs to be no more than 30 per cent of a household budget in order to avoid financial stress and hardship. This is a nationally accepted benchmark from many years of study into the impact of the cost of living and how it affects people.

The snapshot was taken on 23 March this year and there were 69,485 properties listed for rent across Australia on that date.

Of those listed, 2223 were considered affordable and appropriate for a couple on the Age Pension (3.2 per cent), while only 552 (0.8 per cent) were considered affordable and appropriate for a single age pensioner.

Worst of all, only 317 (0.5 per cent) were affordable for a person on the Disability Support Pension.

Of the 660,000 people on the Age Pension who do not own their own home, 88,800 pay over 30 per cent of their income in rent, while 22,529 pay over 50 per cent of their income in rent.

Of people on the Age Pension receiving rent assistance, one in three were still in housing stress after getting the payment.

Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers said that the rental crisis is getting worse.

“There is a huge shortage of secure, affordable rentals. That’s causing record levels of rental stress and even homelessness,” Ms Chambers said.

“And now we’re seeing older Australians are getting stuck in expensive and insecure rentals – at a time in their life when they need stability more than ever.

“We know that many people on low incomes are avoiding becoming homeless by sacrificing other basic living needs to pay the rent – things like food, transport, heating or cooling, or visits to the doctor.”

Rental stress particularly affects older women and is reflected in their growing rates of homelessness.

Older single women are the fastest growing cohort of people experiencing housing stress and homelessness, and most of them have never been homeless before.

Between the 2011 and 2016 Censuses, there was a 31 per cent rise in homelessness among older women.

In the 10 years leading up to 2016 there was a 97 per cent increase in the number of older women forced to rent in the private market.

What do you think? Should the Government provide more social housing to fix this problem?

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