The plight of older renters

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The number of homeless Australians aged 65 and over has grown from 25 in 10,000 people to 27, according to Census figures; and during this year’s national Homelessness Week there are renewed pleas to raise government assistance by at least $75 a week and crack down on unscrupulous landlords.

Salvation Army officer Major Paul Moulds says all governments must work together to develop a comprehensive long-term plan to tackle poverty and homelessness in Australia.

“An increase of welfare payments by a minimum of $75 per week to ensure that those reliant on government assistance can live with dignity, addressing the causes of cost of living pressures, and the development of a nationally coordinated homelessness and housing affordability strategy would make an enormous difference,” Major Moulds says.

He said that in the past five years the Salvation Army had experienced a 40 per cent increase in the number of people accessing financial counselling.

A review of data on client needs had found that Australians aged 65 or older were the most rapidly growing group needing the charity’s assistance and that more than 60 per cent of people who accessed the Salvos’ Moneycare financial counselling service were women.

One quarter of the Salvos’ clients were experiencing extreme housing stress, paying 70 per cent of their income towards housing, he said.

Homelessness Australia says that on any given night, one in 200 people are homeless, and has given this year’s Homelessness Week the slogan ‘Housing Ends Homelessness’.

Dr Emma Power, senior research fellow in geography and urban studies at the Western Sydney University, recently wrote in The Conversation that the lack of appropriate and affordable rental accommodation was a key contributor to homelessness and that older women were particularly vulnerable. “It is getting harder for older renters to find adequate, appropriate and secure housing – with older women particularly at risk,” she wrote.

She attributed this to longer life expectancy, lower incomes and less access to benefits such as superannuation.

“Rising rents were a problem for nearly all women I spoke with. They depleted women’s budgets, leaving little money to buy food or pay for utilities. Many relied on local charities for food and help to pay energy bills.

“One woman described how she would add protein to her meal by buying a single chicken breast, slicing it thinly and freezing each piece separately to be defrosted over the next week or so. Another relied on vegetables the local greengrocer bundled and discounted before throwing out.

“In winter, when heating bills mounted, she relied on a local church with a weekly food pantry. This food, donated by local supermarkets and community members, was frequently past its ‘best before’ date.”

Dr Power said such research showed the need to rethink how society values and regulates private rental housing.

“It is time that we recognise the fundamental role that housing plays in our ability to meet basic needs – for shelter, warmth, food and, above all, a sense of security and home.

“When housing is too expensive, unsafe or inadequate, our capacity to meet our care needs deteriorates and our health suffers. For women in my research, their capacity to age in place – and even to remain housed – was challenged.”

Dr Power said restrictions on the number of rent increases in a year were essential, as were minimum housing standards and an end to no grounds evictions, which left many renters afraid to ask for repairs. “They lived in unhealthy and unsafe housing rather than risk eviction in a market with few affordable options,” she said.

For Homelessness Week events and activities in your region, go here.

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Written by Janelle Ward

67 Comments

Total Comments: 67
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    I’ve technically been homeless for about five years. What’s known as “hidden homeless”. I am 57 and have been unable to get work despite having an awesome professional CV. I get told at interviews that I am “overqualified”; I am sure that most of those comments really translated to “overaged”. I also had dental problems during much of that time, and I am sure that was off-putting at interviews, too. I have now had my dental issues dealt with.

    The only reason I have survived in these past five years is that my oldest daughter lets me live with her for free, for now anyway. I have to buy my own food and only eat a couple of days a week, and then not much.

    In December, I was eligible to withdraw my super and I did. I planned to use it to buy a small place somewhere in a regional area. However, I was convinced to instead fund another child’s home deposit in exchange for a granny flat interest. I thought that sounded okay, so I agreed. Fast forward nine months. Child and spouse bought a house which has a backyard structure perfect for a GF conversion. Spouse has said multiple times they will file for divorce if I move in because they are uncomfortable having other people in their space. A couple of times, child has thrown hissy fit about something stupid and stopped talking to me for a week or two (which is the current situation). They are still holding about $50K of mine in a bank account and, despite several requests for it to be returned to me, I still don’t have it. I am down to about $1.5K in my personal account. I do not receive any Centrelink payment at all, and won’t be eligible for six years without that granny flat interest.

    Last week, I told my daughter I will buy an old car and just drive somewhere and live in it. She told me not to do that; she said I can stay at her place (a rental).

    I am torn up by the whole thing. I feel betrayed and ashamed that one of my kids has treated me like this. I should be living in my own little space by now, but am on the brink of being out on the streets if much more goes wrong.

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      I suggest you obtain legal advice and find out what your rights are. There are organisations that offer this advice for free so lok around where you live.
      The main is due will be whether there was any form of written agreement about you lending the money and then living in the granny flat.
      Unfortunately without knowing all the circumstances, it dies look like you have been done over by your child and sadly this is not a rare occurance.

      The moral us that parents must not help their adult kids financially if it could mean they disadvantage themselves by doing so. The kids will be just fine, they just need to wait a bit longer for what they want. Ageing parents have first dibs on the parents money. If there is any left when they are gone fine, if not so be it.

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      Should read ‘the main issue’ in the second paragraph.

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      Oh yes, KSS. It just seems so cruel. If you help children see it as a gift not a loan. If it needs to be a loan – don’t do it. In case Anne was tricked by the people she loves most in the world.

      Even the older daughter should not have been allowing you to have only a few meals a week. That’s elder abuse.

      Anne needs a lawyer and she needs to abandon her very selfish family and head elsewhere. At 57 she can re-establish herself anywhere away from the big cities. she can house sit for people or look to share.

      One thing for sure is she doesn’t need those girls.

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      Anne I am over qualified as well. So the solution to that is to have numerous CV’s. I have the truethful one that has all of my qualifactions, then the worst one, is where I make out I have been a housewife raising kids etc.- which I have done but I was an IT expert during that time.
      It is fraud to say you have qualifcations when you don’t, but not the other way. You can tweek your CV to suit the jobs you apply for.
      But now my “greying” hair gives me away. Can’t win!!

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      Please don’t be hard on the daughter I’m living with. She works seven days a week to pay our bills. She’s rarely home at meal times, which is why I have to fend for myself there. I’m not sure she realises how little I am eating. One of her two jobs actually involves working closely with homeless people and she is very aware of the issues, more than most of us I dare say.

      The other child is actually a son, not another daughter. His wife is the one who was saying she didn’t want anyone living there. She has apparently changed her mind, but I am not sure about that. My son got angry when I asked about the remaining money and cut off contact with me. Even if we eventually resolve it, I can’t see a way to live with them any more. There’s too much bad history now. I continue to hope it will be resolved without resorting to legal measures. While there is not a formal agreement, there is a significant amount of written correspondence which would hold up in court if it did come to that.

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      Anne, May I suggest there is plenty of work in disability and aged care services that is crying out for good workers. A friend of mine who is 64 changed careers for that reason and she is working now. Adjust your CV to what is related to the industry. There are tafe certificate 3 courses in community services, do one and you will get work. That’s what my friend did. See legal advice about the finances too.
      Good luck with everything. You will be fine, you are still young and have to work to 67.

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      Jackie – I personally would not be referring any senior person to work in aged care. I spend considerable time with my elderly aunt in an Aged Care Facility and she is constantly telling me about the high turnover of staff. Almost without exception, the care staff don’t stay long in the job – because of the hard heavy work, low pay, and simply waiting till something better comes along. I have a friend who started aged care at age 62 and loathes it, hates it. She has allot of time off as her body simply cannot cope with the work. She also agrees many people only go into this field as a last resort, definitely not first choice, and is counting the days till she reaches Aged Pension eligibility in 19 months.
      Just ask yourself – why are there so many positions in this field? Open up job sites for my local area, and at least 6/7 positions out of 10 are for Aged Care Assistants.

    • 0
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      Ann – seems you are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. I was the opposite.I was a single parent of a daughter, and despite her having a good education and upbringing, in her late 20’s decided on an alternative lifestyle… Work as little as possible, scrunge of people, travel, party, drink and take recreational drugs. I worked hard, and bought my first house when I was 45 when she was 21. However, in her mid 30’s she had 2 children to 2 different guys, then started with a new boyfriend.
      As I was approaching retirement, she than came and suggested I sell my home, and we buy a larger home (for her) with a granny flat (for me). Her logic – which she stated – was that she would eventually get my estate! (nice to be waiting for me to die). I emphatically said no – and then all hell broke out. She refused to talk to me, and stopped me seeing the grandchildren. We have been estranged for some years and I now don’t let it bother me as it was out of my hands.
      If you want to help your kids out – than make sure you can survive without them giving the money back. Because many kids see financial assistance as an entitlement, not a voluntary help.
      I’ve since paid off my home, my daughter is onto a new boyfriend, and has her name down for a govt house. She still believes I should provide her housing, instead of going out and working to buy one as I did.

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      I am saddened by this story, it never ceases to amaze me how children can treat their parents, parents do all they can to protect, nurture, house, feed and guide their children and when parents need help it seems to be a struggle for them. Anne I know your daughter is working hard but you must be honest with her and tell her you are struggling, I know if it was my mum I would be upset she did not tell me.
      As for work, create your own, when you have specialist skills especially in IT you can freelance for online work, there are many options.Don’t be afraid to look outside the box.

      sunnyoz, I cannot believe how selfish your daughter has become,to not let you see the grandkids it’s just emotional blackmail, it is the grandkids that end up suffering the most sadly.

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      Anne, that is so sad. I have had a similar situation in lending a large amount of money to one of my children and it just being wasted. I am not destitute though and have a job and own my home. I hope things work out for you in future. Best wishes.

  2. 0
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    Sad story Anne. I can’t understand why the daughter’s husband agreed to take your money if he had not intention of letting you stay in the granny flat? Did’nt you speak to both of them before handing over the money? I certainly would have. The only solution I can see is to get that money back and move on.

    • 0
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      Do you think perhaps they had good intentions and have an in-law out the back put too much strain on the marriage. In which case they could find her another place. Pay her rent in the new place and rent out the granny flat to a stranger.

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    Make no mistake Homelessness needs to be fixed. It needs to be given top priority. It requires cooperation between Government and everyone else involved.

    Homelessness needs to be tackled independently of budget restraints because if it is not fixed Government will will have greater costs through health and social welfare services as well as moral debts.

    It can be done and it is not hard to see how. Through well organised and located housing projects with suitable support services and adequate financial provision and care facilities for the individuals. They need our love and deserve our respect. It should be the Australian way.

    Only problem is when those responsible will stand up and take action.

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      Yes, I can’t believe that it is so difficult to find and build suitable accommodation. Even the war refugees in the middle east get tents.

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      Yes Brian even army tents with stretchers would be better than being on the streets. It is a real issue that the LNP Government is failing in it’s duty of care.

      It’s not even a budget issue because the tents etc already exist and so does the personnel to support these people. Already being paid by the Australian taxpayers.

      If they can support hundreds of thousands of homeless refugees overseas we should be able to do it as well.

      If the drought continues we could have a lot of country folk flooding into the cities.

      The ball is in the LNP court for the next three years as Labor has no power in either House after the last election.

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      Agree entirely BrianP

  4. 0
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    Without wanting to beat the same drum its bloody obvious we could stop homelessness at the drop of a hat if we wanted to.
    The current government chose to give (predominantly) the wealthy a $158 billion tax cut. That’s 1000 lots of a million dollars! The money would have ended homelessness and given retirees who are struggling a life but the wealthy funders of this pack of rats will get most of that.
    Talk about ‘homelessness’ all you like but perhaps come to grips with what Australians have done to themselves. The other disgrace is that this sum of money will simply be added to the large debt the current bunch of liars have raked up. You’ll never hear the right wing media mention that let alone stay on the chase like it did with Labor’s small debt when Abbott was installed by the Murdoch media arm.

    • 0
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      Yes Mick and such a fuss about $6 billion going to a few self funded retirees before the last election. What was that about exactly?

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      Better known as Murdoch & Stokes propaganda to get THEIR political party back into office. It worked because of the utter stupidity of people. We get what we deserve!

      On the point of the $6 billion you mention the government could easily have put a brake on franking credits after say $10,000 worth. That would have nailed the wealthy.

      I still can’t believe anybody other than greedy self interest individuals could have put this lot back in. The $158 billion will just be added to our already large debt and as always down the track people will ask ‘how could this happen”? Time for a Sunday drink.

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      MICK there is absolutely no reason to have dividend imputation at all. When you buy a share in a company you may be entitled to a share of any profit not being retained by the company for investment and growth. It’s your job to pay tax on that bit of profit. Why the company is paying it at all is an issue. Is the Australian Government so broke they need companies to push cashflow through the books?

      The company pays tax on profits it retains. None of this ever seems to be a problem in other countries. The wealthy then pay tax on their bit of the profit at their marginal rates. The problem we have is the tall poppy syndrome cutting us down over and over because we can’t seem to stand anyone having anything without sharing with everyone whether they deserve it or not.

      Labor should never have brought it up as an election issue and should never have chosen to hit up self funded retirees and let aged pension welfare dependents to keep their cut of the profits. It was designed to divide and cause angst. That is pure class warfare and did little to recommend Labor.

      $158 billion is a ridiculous amount and should be stopped. For everyone. No exceptions.

      But just picking on a rainy group for $6 billion was pretty damn stupid in my opinion.

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      I so agree with you Mick. Well said. Just what has Australia become when we don’t look after our most vulnerable. And just on the weekend Morriscum said he won’t increase Newstart, what a heartless scumbag he is. So much for his christian beliefs. Jesus would be weeping.

  5. 0
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    i live in a rental that takes nearly all my carer pittance ( $700.00) per fortnight. I get just over 100.00 a fortnight rent allowance. ever lease renewal time Im sick with fear the owner will put the rent up. we cant afford more. what will happen to disabled daughter when /if I go. she cant get supported accommodation she has the wrong type of disabilities. the government could do a hell of a lot to fix the problem but they wont till the people get out there ongoing and let them know we arent going to cop thier crap anymore and that we arent the apathetic dumb suckers they know we are

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      There is an inquiry into the NDIS at the moment. Have you written to your member of parliament and other services for help?

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      I can relate to the fear you feel every rent renewal, it always goes up but income does not. The real estate agents have no sympathy because they know there is a demand for low paying rentals. In my area all the cheap housing has been knocked down and in place new builds that only those with money can afford, pushing out low income people all the time.

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      Does your daughter get the disability pension and pay her share of costs? The story above shows how bad it can get if you give too much without constraints. If you are giving up a working life for your child then all money should be shared.

  6. 0
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    I am happily renting a one bed unit but,things can change ,just ask some of myfriends. lose your unit here in Cairns and you are done for,,I have to look forward a few years and will I be able to cook and walk a mile to the bus stop.I and other people only want an organization that can find a semi paying rest home and theres just no organization who wants to know,,Seniors are no good they print glossy magazines full of travel offers ,what seniors go on all these cruises ,but they must do
    Seniors and the road magazines are only interested in materialists and I meet may seniors who go crying forvhelpvhaving spent all their money on materialism

    • 0
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      gerry, you did not read my article on our service club providing of cheap rental, – Admittedly I did not mention that that is in the middle of town, admittedly a small town, but adequate facilities, and we are generally able to organise an electric wheel chair if 3 or 4 hundred meters is too much.
      Point is, join a local Service Club, where you can give and receive, – you then have entered a much more congenial environment, where people can care for you and you can help others, – what could be better for an older person?

  7. 0
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    I must say I am sympathetic to everyone’s cry for help – first and foremost.

    One thing I am reading over and over is “the government must….”
    Well the government is not our babysitter. What we really need to instill in the community is FAMILY.

    We are tribal and we should be looking after each other. A daughter shouldn’t allow her mother to starve or another one rip off all her super funds for granny flat she didn’t want her to stay in.

    Love each other, care for each other. When there is no “other” then we have the Government as our benefactor. That means there is enough money in the kitty to help the destitute.

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      We badly need help and we do have a very nice young lady who comes and does the house cleaning for us but we can only afford once a fortnight.
      We have children but they refuse to help and have moved away to other towns so they are no longer ‘local’ for us.
      I am running out of ideas where to apply for help. We have both been assessed by My Aged Care who say they have no-one to help out and to ask our children.
      This is a problem a lot of older people face and there seems to be no help available unless a person is assessed for nursing home care and neither of us are at that level as yet, and probably will never admit we need a nursing home as the horror stories about the homes are frightening.

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      Department of Veterinary Affairs offer that sort of support. I don’t know if there is an equivalent for the rest of the community.

      With lack of help its starts to come down to the kids not getting the inheritance they expect and think about rationalising assets.

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      Autumnoz, if you cannot look after yourselves without support and unable to afford the level of support desired then it’s decision time – make do or change to somewhere you can afford the support. Have you thought of offering free board in exchange for light duties?

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      The Government is actually responsible for allowing millions of young immigrants into the country without ensuring enough accommodation for the elderly and low income renters. It should have been an obvious issue and easily dealt with except of a stupid inability to see consequences.

      Family should care for each other but we have failed to instil that in the kids by doing everything for them so they also have a sense of entitlement and no responsibility not unlike those crying for government assistance.

      How you turn that kind of inbuilt dependence around and build independence and resilience is something even the mental health people are grappling with.

      With huge unemployment levels you’d think simply housework could be supplied at reasonable cost. Prices everywhere need to fall.

  8. 0
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    The LNP. just don’t care sad really.

  9. 0
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    Youre dreaming Mick if you think more money will end homelessness. Yes it would go a long way to helping some but a lot will be just as porr and hard up as they were before. For a percentage of the homeless more money just means more cigs, piss, drugs or gambling. I work in the industry and it is soul destroying sometimes when you put your heart and soul into helping someone out of the gutter, to have them bite the hand thats put out to help them and dive right back into the swill. There is a percentage of that population that thinks its a right and a viable lifestyle to always have their hand out complaining that they need more. The genuine people in need are held back by this, dare I say, useless class.

  10. 0
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    I have spoken to quite a few older folk when I was a volunteer with community transport, they often told me that when their pension went up their rent in public housing also went up, apparently the amount they pay in rent is linked to their ability to pay as a proportion of their income, if their only income is the pension then often they lost as much as 50% of the rise they received, is public housing a state responsibility or Federal? I am sure that older people would sooner have a safe place to live rather than a rise in pension that can be immediately eroded in extra rent. I have mentioned a solution before and that was to bring back the Nissan huts that used to be used for migrants, only allow the same age groups to access these types of accommodation in the same complex, I believe some of the hostels used to have a dining room where people could get a decent meal, pensioners should be able to access this accommodation without paying rent, but maybe pay a certain amount for food and maintenance. It might not be the only answer but I am sure it would be preferable to being homeless and could encourage friendships for people who are alone.

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      I like this idea, have seen hostel type situations work in Salt Lake City however difficult to expand these to accommodate all homeless but something like the old migrant villages with onsite support services could be the backbone of an affordable and sustainable solution.

    • 0
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      They have something similar in the Netherlands, there are different types of village like atmospheres that cater for different situations, there is even one that caters for people with dementia and they try to make things as normal as possible.

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      I am familiar with the dementia village concept pioneered at Hogeweyk. There are now several villages operating along these lines in a number of countries but this is not an affordable option for addressing the broader homelessness problem. I think the migrant hostel model like those seen in the 50s and 60s offers a more affordable and easily implemented model.

    • 0
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      The Dutch have managed to maintain a real sense of co-operation. They are even getting crime down so prisons can be converted to public housing. They also have a sense of relying on yourself and community and family to work together. Having to keep the sea back certainly focussed joint endeavour.

      It’s a pity we have instilled independence here but then turned around and expected to depend on a government whose main aim is to stop Labor.

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