28th Feb 2019
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Why more older Australians are living in shared housing

Generation Share: why more older Australians are living in share houses

File 20181127 76758 h54on4.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1 Tight finances are the main reason more older Australians, especially women, are living in share houses. belushi/Shutterstock Sophia Maalsen, University of Sydney

An increasing number of older Australians are living in share housing. A relatively new group to emerge on the share-housing scene, they are choosing to share for financial reasons, but finding unexpected social benefits.

Share housing has traditionally been associated with student housing and media depictions of the share house as dysfunctional, chaotic, “He Died with a Falafel in His Hand” scenarios. But a growing number of older people are sharing housing.

This trend is part of the growth in share housing across an increasingly broad demographic as professionals aged in their 30s, 40s and onwards continue to share house or return to share housing into later life. Generation Rent is fast becoming “Generation Share”.


Read more: Moving on from home ownership for 'Generation Rent'


The growing trend of share households is attributed to a combination of shifting social norms and a decline in affordable rental properties. This is particularly acute in our capital cities but is also evident in regional centres.

An emerging group of tenants – professionals, couples, young families and students – who cannot afford to buy or rent an entire property of their own are increasingly turning to shared occupancy as a way to afford housing. Home owners are also noted as a group for whom shared occupancy has benefits by generating extra income for mortgage repayments.

Tight budgets affect all ages

My research on share housing across all age groups shows it’s mainly driven by financial constraints. In older age, the experience of this is gendered. Although older men are sharing, women in particular are more vulnerable to significant financial constraints in old age.

Women are the fastest-growing group at risk of homelessness in Australia. Many have limited superannuation to draw upon due to time out of the workforce to raise children or manage the home. This means the ramifications of the gender wage gap are particularly visible in older life – to quote one participant, “a man is not a superannuation”.


Read more: Spirals and circles, snakes and ladders. Why women's super is complex


A common scenario is people falling out of home ownership after divorce or a relationship breakdown. Without the family home and with limited material assets, share housing is one of a diminishing set of options for living affordably and securely.

Share housing has its challenges

Moving into share housing in later life can be an adjustment. Many older people are in share housing for the first time in their life, having previously owned their own home.

There are obvious social challenges inherent in this situation. These include learning to negotiate domestic spaces in new ways. And certainly many are vulnerable to being exploited by unscrupulous flatmates, head tenants, or landlords.

Similar to share-housing experiences among younger groups, older participants mentioned occasional household conflicts and were aware of the need for personal space.

But there are also social benefits

However, some also reflect positively on the social value of share housing. This has been an unexpected benefit for many of them. At an age when isolation and loneliness increase, this is particularly important.

Older residents value the social aspects and the new friendships that sometimes develop in share houses. Flow-on effects of this include an increase in their sense of safety and security, knowing that they are not alone should anything untoward happen.


Read more: Co-housing works well for older people, once they get past the image problem


Long-term policy challenges loom

Although share housing in older age has social benefits, its rise should prompt us to reflect critically on Australia’s housing market as well as rethinking retirement policy. Share housing is directly correlated to declining housing affordability.

These trends highlight systematic disinvestment in public and social housing for the past 30 years as well as a market that has encouraged housing as a site of investment. The result is a system that has produced housing as a site of profit rather than housing as a site of home.

For older people, the situation is particularly complex. Australia’s retirement policies promote home ownership as the pathway to a financially secure old age. That leaves the growing number of older Australians who don’t own their own home to experience increased financial stress.

The Australian Dream of the owner-occupied home is quickly becoming that – a dream rather than reality for many Australians. The cracks are starting to show. As people fall out of home ownership and the younger generations doubt they’ll ever own a home – they’re not called Generation Rent for nothing – Generation Share will present significant challenges for policy.


Read more: Home ownership foundations are being shaken, and the impacts will be felt far and wide The Conversation


Sophia Maalsen, I.B. Fell Postdoctoral Researcher, School of Architecture, Design and Planning, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Have you considered shared housing for social as well as for financial reasons? Would you house-share or not? Related articles: Rent assistance explained Most-asked end-of-life questions Renters’ homelessness risk





    COMMENTS

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    28th Feb 2019
    10:25am
    Makes sense for those on OAP,who don't own a home but want to stay in expensive cities.
    Farside
    28th Feb 2019
    12:05pm
    It also works for those owning a home by providing pocket money and companionship. I have seen several shared households. The challenge it throws up is home design; it works best when there is sufficient personal space in addition to the shared living area and utility rooms. The two best examples I have seen provided for each resident to have a large bedroom with either ensuite or exclusive bathroom, as well as parking space for vehicle.

    28th Feb 2019
    10:25am
    Makes sense for those on OAP,who don't own a home but want to stay in expensive cities.
    Sundays
    28th Feb 2019
    12:59pm
    Yes, it’s a great idea. Two sisters I know have done this and it’s working so well, they have gone down to one car between them.
    FEDUP
    28th Feb 2019
    12:03pm
    Makes sense to downsize (if in an expensive city), move to the country, plenty of houses out in the bush. Even hobby farms are available, to reduce your food bills, if active enough.
    Most places have good doctors, health services and the ambulance will take you to a major country centre if required. And the houses are a quarter or less, the price of the Big Smoke.
    sunnyOz
    28th Feb 2019
    12:16pm
    As someone who has just moved back to the city from out in the country - have to strongly disagree. I loved living in the country, but adequate and proper medical treatment is a nightmare. In some areas in Western Qld - there are so few doctors, they are handing out maternity kits to prospective mothers due to lack of doctors in case they need urgent (read that - within 2-3 hours) assistance.
    The so-called patient travel subsidy is a joke. Jump through a million hoops, then Qld Health delight in turning it down. They now won't pay for a 6 hour car km travel (if someone wants to take you). You are pushed on to a 10-12 hour bus trip. Accommodation charge won't even cover an unpowered camp site - and remember, you have come by bus. Specialists might only visit once every 3 months - nothing to have to wait 9 months just to see someone. My medical condition could only be provided by city doctors.
    And with tightening of licenses for older people? - forget it! No public transport in country areas. In the town I was living in was an elderly driver who lived alone 68kms out of town. Her driving was appalling - dangerous. But police were reluctant to take her license as she would be totally isolated. She pottered along the highway around 50km - in 110km zones. Everybody just knew her.
    And the town I was living in had airport and hospital - no traffic lights though! I would have loved to stay - I just wasn't wealthy enough (being solely on the OAP)
    Chris B T
    28th Feb 2019
    2:41pm
    Married couple live like this but have their pension reduced because you can live "cheaply" together.
    I take it both/all (multiples) parties receive full pension.
    Might make sense but why discriminate.
    OlderandWiser
    28th Feb 2019
    4:13pm
    Yes, Chris BT. Married couples suffer discrimination. So do homeowners, who suffer pension reductions while renters get rent assistance. The whole system is skewed. We have pensioners screaming for higher rent assistance, while homeowners are being threatened with more hits via including the home in the assets test. Really makes you wonder why we bother to strive if it's all going to be taken away when we come to the point our lives where we need the savings we set aside and the security of our home.

    I sympathize with the small minority of pensioners who genuinely couldn't buy a home, but most had plenty of opportunity but just didn't bother. Now they are yelling for handouts, claiming they should be able to live where they choose. Why? Homeowners can't. Those who pay their own way have to live where they can afford to live. What's wrong with those who live off the taxpayer similarly accepting the level of accommodation they can afford?

    If we don't put an end to this nonsense of taking from this group to give more to that group, the economy will collapse. It's time for some plain common sense. Set a level of pension that is reasonable and pay the same to every person of qualifying age, then tax retirement income. Let those who worked and saved and struggled to pay off a mortgage enjoy their fair reward. Preserve incentives for younger folk to strive.

    Nothing wrong with shared housing if it's the best you can afford, or to enable you to save a house deposit. Most of our generation accepted less than optimum accommodation until our financial state improved. And I'm sure not all married folk are happy to share now, but do so out of necessity. Then again, the current stupid system encourages people to do as a neighbour does - claim to be separated but live together in a house with a bedsitter suite at each end and shared living rooms in the middle.
    OlderandWiser
    28th Feb 2019
    4:13pm
    Yes, Chris BT. Married couples suffer discrimination. So do homeowners, who suffer pension reductions while renters get rent assistance. The whole system is skewed. We have pensioners screaming for higher rent assistance, while homeowners are being threatened with more hits via including the home in the assets test. Really makes you wonder why we bother to strive if it's all going to be taken away when we come to the point our lives where we need the savings we set aside and the security of our home.

    I sympathize with the small minority of pensioners who genuinely couldn't buy a home, but most had plenty of opportunity but just didn't bother. Now they are yelling for handouts, claiming they should be able to live where they choose. Why? Homeowners can't. Those who pay their own way have to live where they can afford to live. What's wrong with those who live off the taxpayer similarly accepting the level of accommodation they can afford?

    If we don't put an end to this nonsense of taking from this group to give more to that group, the economy will collapse. It's time for some plain common sense. Set a level of pension that is reasonable and pay the same to every person of qualifying age, then tax retirement income. Let those who worked and saved and struggled to pay off a mortgage enjoy their fair reward. Preserve incentives for younger folk to strive.

    Nothing wrong with shared housing if it's the best you can afford, or to enable you to save a house deposit. Most of our generation accepted less than optimum accommodation until our financial state improved. And I'm sure not all married folk are happy to share now, but do so out of necessity. Then again, the current stupid system encourages people to do as a neighbour does - claim to be separated but live together in a house with a bedsitter suite at each end and shared living rooms in the middle.
    Sundays
    28th Feb 2019
    4:42pm
    Good point Chris B T. Tax is always paid at the individual level, so why not the OAP. Then again, a single person living on their own still has many of the same expenses as a couple eg rates, insurances, electricity, car rego etc.
    Cowboy Jim
    28th Feb 2019
    10:24pm
    Just get divorced, one can use the kid's address for Centrelink purposes. No one has landlines and cell phones have no address. You can still together and you are roughly $10'000 a year better off. Some people do it like that, especially renters, if caught the have no other money anyway so who cares?!
    musicveg
    3rd Mar 2019
    3:44pm
    Many younger people do this too Cowboy Jim, they keep having kids too, what a rort. If everyone got a single payment maybe kids would have both parents around more and people would stay together more.
    Charlie
    28th Feb 2019
    4:17pm
    Woopee they can pretend to be gay and get married.

    What if one is a heavy smoker. What if one is incontinent. What if one is demented. What if one has tubes hanging out of his body and plugs into a machine. What if one is blind. What if one is deaf.

    Simple solution, the government provides quality pensioner accommodation for both singles and couples.
    There always seems to be someone coming up with a self help idea, kind of like the web sites that provide answers, to 100 hypothetical questions.
    Rae
    28th Feb 2019
    6:08pm
    Charlie it would be simple to build motels with combined staffed kitchen and recreation spaces, even a pool and spa with a manager couple to employ casual staff. It wouldn't be that expensive. It would provide local not for profit employment and service a need. Even current motels could be purchased.

    Might give retirement villages some competition but that would be a good thing.
    Aussie
    28th Feb 2019
    4:34pm
    There is another way to have a great retirement life if you do not own a home ..... Go overseas for longer periods ...for example travel to Bali or Thailand or Vietnam and rent a home or nice unit with water view for about AU$200/250 per MONTH and have nice fresh vegetables and others for an average of say AU$500 per MONTH, Water and electricity around AU$90 per MONTH and very fast internet for about AU$15/20 per MONTH.

    With a minimum basic pension of about AU$1,716 dollars x month you can save an average of over 800 dollars x month and if you do not go crazy with entertainment you can have a return trip every 3 month to Australia to visit your kids, family and friends then back out again (Round tip about AU$600/700)

    There is no way to compare a water view unit of one bedroom or in some cases 2 bed and if you do not care about water views the you can get a house for the same money with 2 bedrooms and garage a lot better than share a home with others and share bathroom and kitchen .... this way you are your own boss and do whatever you want.

    Just another way ... I am doing that this days travel out every 6 months to Bali, Vietnam, Thailand and have lots of fun meeting lots of people from all over the world.

    By doing this you also save the government an average of 4,000 to 5,000 x month because you will only get the basic pension and no rental, No medicare or any other free services provided to free to us.

    About Health ... well is so cheap that i pay at the hospitals when I need it but in Thailand all my basic checks are free like blood pressure. About doctor consultations and medicines they are so cheap and you can get almost anything you need without a expensive prescriptions also I get back to Australia and do my check out with my doctor every 3 or 6 months

    So Yeahhh this is my way and happy to share with you ... and by the way where ever I go there is always a few Australians retired on the water sites ...he he he he

    Have fun in your retirement but you must be flexible to other people and respectful of their cultures .... then all will be just great
    cupoftea
    28th Feb 2019
    5:35pm
    Aussi that's my plans
    cupoftea
    28th Feb 2019
    5:35pm
    Aussi that's my plans
    Elizzy
    28th Feb 2019
    6:46pm
    Rae, I agree. Purpose -built shared housing is a great idea and useful for people of various ages and stages of life, not just pensioners.
    Elizzy
    28th Feb 2019
    6:46pm
    Rae, I agree. Purpose -built shared housing is a great idea and useful for people of various ages and stages of life, not just pensioners.
    Fabulous
    28th Feb 2019
    7:13pm
    Another option is for a few people to obtain a block of land & put 'tiny houses" on it. Tiny homes can be custom built. This project will take some organising but something I may yet do.
    musicveg
    3rd Mar 2019
    3:49pm
    Yes, I love tiny houses, less upkeep and cleaning, I am saving up, but I prefer to not be in a park situation, too many neighbours to get along with and/or put up with. But many people are finding other places to put them, there is a website you can buy, rent and find a place to put your tiny house here:https://tinyrealestate.com.au/
    musicveg
    3rd Mar 2019
    4:20pm
    Also if you google tiny houses and the state you are in, you will find many fantastic tiny house builders, at all prices ranges and sizes, plus there are also some you can rent out on airbnb to try out to see if tiny houses suit you.
    Franky
    28th Feb 2019
    8:47pm
    I own my home and instead of selling it to downsize have now split it in half so I can rent to another single person and share the house. It's the way to go with many benefits for all concerned.
    Aussie
    3rd Mar 2019
    3:50pm
    Franky .... smart move .... that way you also assist another person .... good job .....
    musicveg
    3rd Mar 2019
    3:50pm
    I share with my son, that is enough for me. Not going to go back to sharing with strangers, I have been ripped off so many times in the past.
    Aussie
    3rd Mar 2019
    3:58pm
    Yes mate I share with my daughter when I am in Australia but most of the time I am OS having a luxury time enjoying all the beautiful things that Asia offer he he he he

    My daughter and my son's come with me sometimes ... they go back and they say Dad ... I want to retire you have a great life in retirement he he he he ...

    Is great to share with the kids .... but in my case I move out so I am not on her way ... she is happy with that arrangement ...
    Aussie
    3rd Mar 2019
    4:02pm
    Anybody knows the increase percentage for this month ?????? will be that $11 the Politicians talking about ??? or just $8.00 same as last September ???? or that one time suit payment so we vote for them again he he he he

    Anybody has info ???? will be good to know so we can plan our activities
    Anonymous
    3rd Mar 2019
    4:22pm
    Vote LNP - you will get more increase than labor
    Labor will have to cut costs as pension bill will go through the roof in 2020 when they implement their disastrous policies
    Aussie
    3rd Mar 2019
    5:07pm
    Thanks for the tip ..... but maybe I vote for myself ....... wowowowowo Aussie the prime minister wowowowowo I will make the pension s universal ... no asset test below 1.5 million and many more goodies .... vote for Aussie ....... he he he he


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