The housing crisis destroying the lives of single older women

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The single older woman who doesn’t own her own home has become one of the most at-risk groups in Australia due to the rising cost of rent and the lack of jobs for older Australians.

The situation for older women has worsened in recent years with instances of homelessness increasing year on year. Couch surfing among older women has almost doubled over the past four years and there has been a similar rise in the number of older women sleeping in cars, a report by Homelessness Australia has found.

“The loss of a relationship, not sufficient superannuation to fall back on as an individual and not owning your home getting towards the point of retirement … your income has no chance paying for a rental in the current environment,” Homelessness Australia CEO Jenny Smith said.

A study published in the Journal of Rural Studies looked at a group of 47 older women who do not own homes in regional New South Wales. Nearly all of the 47 women lived on low incomes, and their housing ranged from hotel rooms to makeshift sheds to rundown flats. Only two of the 47 participants had never had a partner and 43 participants had borne children.

When asked about their housing priorities, there was a universal desire for privacy, stability and security, as most participants had very disrupted housing histories. While some of the group were against shared housing, nearly all the women wanted some sort of garden and a space to accommodate their grandchildren and pets.

“If the housing problems that many single, older women experience are to be solved, housing policymakers need to be informed by research about what makes these women’s lives meaningful and productive,” said Southern Cross University lecturer Yvonne Hartman.

What do you think? Does more need to be done to combat homelessness in Australia? Do we need to implement strategies towards helping single older women, in particular?

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104 Comments

Total Comments: 104
  1. 0
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    carers are another group facing homelessness when their caring days are over no superannuation etc. ( Can I copy this item to send out ) ?

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      Good point – unless they are lucky, there is no real outcome without inheriting. I am now a carer, having re-built (yet again) from my homeless time (see below) – but at least I have a stake in the home and a little bit in life of value, and will not suffer that illness.

      How does a single carer get enough to pay for rented accommodation these days? Maybe it’s time to bring down the house of cards called serial housing investment for profit, and re-build the paradigm on housing.

      As I’ve pointed out elsewhere – all the things that are being dumped on this nation now are exactly the reasons for revolutions. including the NAZI one – and the imposition of a controlled economy and such. Not convinced that is a good thing, so maybe it’s time for a little voluntary contribution back to this nation from those who are ripping it off for their own benefit … before the tumbrils roll and the guillotine is greased….

  2. 0
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    Australia needs to follow NZ. They are cutting back on immigration, banning property, land sales to overseas. They acknowledge that is the cause behind their inflated property and rental market to fix their homeless problem. This will never happen here because most of our politicians are negatively geared up to the hilt.

  3. 0
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    Governments do not care, just do not tough the trough, commercial TV is only interested in presenting trivia as news, and the only other medium that may have broadcast the plight of disadvantaged and unempowered is the ABC but that has been systematically strangled starting with Hawk and the labor government.

  4. 0
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    It is estimated that on a given night approximately 105,000 people will be homeless in Australia. Fifty-six percent of homeless people on census night were male and 44 percent were female. Clearly, there are many reasons for homelessness, debt, disability, unemployment, addiction, poverty and being forced out of the marital home.

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    I don’t know why this study focused on women , I guess there’s more money for women’s issues. More men are homeless than women. The issues around the high cost of rental accommodation will only get worse especially if changes to negative gearing are implemented. Less rental properties , less profit in renting properties means higher rents. If your on a pension that’s bad news, getting work at 70 is almost impossible , so you will run out of options.

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      Hi Tib, thanks for your feedback and yes, you highlight many other important & related factors. The survey may have focussed on the female situation as it is older women who form the cohort whose numbers are increasing most rapidly when it comes to homelessness. warmest
      Kaye

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      Kaye I think it’s an important issue , a situation that will get worse ,I just don’t think it’s a gender issue. I think divorced women do well in the divorce but long term they don’t do well which means more homeless women than there has been. But they still are not at the same rates as men and not everything is a gender issue.

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      What about…. is tiresome. I doubt you read the article because then you may understand the issues. Homelessness is unacceptable in this country but the causes are different for women than men. Homelessness for women have largely been hidden until now. As life expectancy increases the issue will increase. Women who are homeless tend to be single and if they were employed it was on low paid jobs with almost no super. Women are also more likely never to have owned their own home or if they did it was in their husband’s name. On the other hand men (not all) are homeless because of mental illness, substance abuse and relationship breakdown. The causes of homelessness are different so the ‘cures’ are different.

    • 0
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      Women are focussed upon because they are one of the sacred cows of the 21st century. I’m heartily sick of it.

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      Piglet I read the article and yes I understand the issues but it all ends up as public housing. It doesn’t matter what the reasons are if you are homeless you need accommodation. Additional services may be required depending on the issue man or women. Most of these articles are the same it comes down to ‘women think they need more services and money spent on them than men” according to some study focusing on women’s issues. Even though more men have the issue than women,

    • 0
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      I think you’re wrong, DrPolymath, I thought polymaths were the ones who didn’t have tunnel vision.

    • 0
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      I think you’re wrong, Triss. Polymaths like me have broad and deep vision, because we’re well-informed thinkers.

      I suggest you read a book by Warren Farrell called “The Myth of Male Power”, and you’ll see that I’m right. I’m sick and tired of special pleading for women when it’s MEN who die younger, are more likely to be homeless, etc. etc.

    • 0
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      How exactly will the number of rental properties decline? Will their owners simply shut them up and earn no income to offset their mortgages, pay those in full along with all ongoing costs,and wait for the payback at sale time?

      I think not… all this guff about ‘we need negative gearing or there will be no investment in housing’ is just that – guff.

      Negative gearing is the same as you get with any other business into which you have to pour your private cash…. the issues at bottom, to me, seem to be the banks being too ready to offer big mortgages on next to no REAL equity (how do you gain massive equity from buying an investment property using equity from another one etc, on and on?? You DON’T – buy a $1m property with a 10% deposit, and it needs to go up by 10% in the time before you even apply for another – just to BREAK EVEN – there is no genuine ‘equity’ in it until you’ve owned if for a much longer time, and the banks are playing the game that they can never lose – UNLESS the market fails – since they can foreclose, resume and re-sell, and still demand payment for any shortfall from the loser who bought on zero or even negative REAL equity, all the while raking in compound interest.

      Massive review needed.

  6. 0
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    I do hope someone is reading this article who can and will do something. Its not just older women – its young women with children – families who don’t have a competitive income – men paying maintenance to a wife and family and yet have been left with nothing – young graduates and apprentices needing accommodation near employment hubs.
    It is a huge crisis and such a disappointing downturn in our society when we were all stepping forward together and now its a well defined two income stream society.
    They must start building housing commission homes again and force these prices down. Australia has a population of 3 people per sq km. There is room for a home and a garden for everyone.

  7. 0
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    Am I the only one who wonders why there is no consideration given to government/social housing. Yes I know there are waiting lists and each state handles things differently but a social house is better than no house.

    • 0
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      Yes joy more housing needs to be made available for homeless people. In some states people are in public housing who shouldn’t be but the government doesn’t want to tell them to leave because they have been there for decades but because of this others are missing out.

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      Apparently the public housing was given with a lifetime option but this changed maybe 15 -20 years ago to I think 5 years with a review of income. to be able to continue using public housing you need to be under a limit. Not a 100% sure.

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      These rules probably change from state to state.

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      Most probably tib, if public housing is funded by the states. I don’t know. This was what I was told by someone in NSW public housing.

    • 0
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      Joy B there aren’t enough Housing Commission homes for the increasing level of people who cannot buy or rent in this very expensive market.
      I found out recently that they just can’t up and leave to go outback as social welfare will be terminated if they go to a place with a low employment prospect. Its a catch 22 situation.
      I recently went house hunting with my son. Entry level homes were the old housing commission homes. Filthy, horrible and in an awful neighbourhood. He couldn’t buy one of these homes anyway because they came with larger blocks that investors were buying to bulldoze for units.
      So what was suitable for a low income family in the 1960s will now be replaced by a dwelling and land half the size for a middle income earner at around $1/2m.
      How sad for our youth and how incredibly shortsighted of our successive governments.

    • 0
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      NSW gave lifetime rights to public housing to many tenants. I know of one who inherited $1 million and remained in public housing, while others sleep on the street. So dreadfully wrong! When will the idiots in power wake up to reality and exercise some common sense?

  8. 0
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    More special pleading for women. *yawn*

    The largest group of homeless people are MEN.

    • 0
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      I agree yawn.just another study showing women are victims. According to women. As usual they want more money.

    • 0
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      I hope you two meet for coffee every week so you can complain to each other how difficult it is to be a man and how you’d love to be a woman and get all those perks you think they have.

    • 0
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      Triss no man wants to be a women. I suspect a lobotomy would really hurt. Besides I could never get used to asking a guy for directions.

    • 0
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      Triss, I don’t complain. I point out facts and speak the truth. Try it sometime.

    • 0
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      The definition of ‘homeless’ is not having a roof to call your own – in one way or another, which includes rent.

      This one has been going the rounds as long as the ‘wage gap’ one has – it is a fact that while women may constitute 44% of the homeless, 90%+ of those women are either staying with friends or family, but are still technically labeled as ‘homeless’.

      For homeless men the picture is not anywhere near so rosy – with somewhere around 70% or so not even having that basic.

      These figures are from memory a few years back… but HERE…

      http://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/about/what-homelessness

  9. 0
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    All homeless people should be helped. A caravan type accommodation with tiny houses and a community garden would be cost effective and a start.

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      That’s not a bad idea crafty any accommodation is better than none.

    • 0
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      I don’t think these women would be happy with that. The article said” While some of the group were against shared housing, nearly all the women wanted some sort of garden and a space to accommodate their grandchildren and pets.” I think they want granite bench tops and 30 squares and some serious landscaping.

    • 0
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      Crafty my comment about the house size is because I have a house with 26 squares of living space not counting garage and stuff and I would have trouble accommodating children and grandchildren. I think these women are pretty fussy for women living on the street. This story lacks credibility. If I was living on the street I would be happy with a one bedroom unit. I would be thrilled to be out of the rain.

    • 0
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      Tib, they would be happy with a safe and affordable 1 bedroom home but naturally their preference would be for something larger if they had grandchildren.

    • 0
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      The ex (for whom I’m carer) constantly seems to read books on London poverty – with up to 6-7 people living in a room and a single toilet on the floor – and that was good digs.

      No wonder they flocked to Oz…..

  10. 0
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    Wouldn’t it be lovely if the gov started a small homes project where tiny homes are built for the homeless like they do in USA

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