More than half of older Aussies facing housing crisis, survey finds

New data reveals more than half of older Australians are experiencing housing stress due to either a lack of affordable housing or a lack of age-appropriate housing.

A survey conducted by National Seniors Australia shows housing affordability is a significant problem for 65 per cent of respondents aged 50-plus.

Around 45 per cent of respondents to the Suitable Housing in Later Life survey said they were currently living in homes that were unsuitable for later life because they’re too big, too costly to maintain or security of tenure can’t be guaranteed.

The report was based on data from the annual National Seniors Social Survey of more than 5300 older Australians.

Renters facing biggest problems

Unsurprisingly, older renters were in a more precarious situation than homeowners. National Seniors found renters were nine times more likely than others to be ‘quite concerned’ or ‘acutely concerned’ about their ability to afford housing.

National Seniors CEO Chris Grice says the findings echo the wider rental crisis facing Australians of all ages.

“Our research shows 39 per cent of older renters experienced severe cost-of-living impacts because of rising living costs,” he says.

“Housing security clearly remains a problem for renters, with many wanting easier and more affordable pathways to buy, or more secure, affordable, long-term rental options.

“The results support our call for an increase to the Commonwealth Rent Assistance. While we were pleased to see a 15 per cent increase to the maximum rate in the Federal Budget, it is not enough.”

Homeowners not unscathed

It isn’t just older renters facing problems. Homeowners, especially those who still have a mortgage, are facing cost pressures in the form of rising interest rates.

Even some of those without a mortgage are struggling with the cost of council rates, utilities, retirement village fees, body corporate fees and much more.

The option to move to a smaller house and reduce some of these costs is hindered by increases to stamp duty, as well as a lack of age-appropriate housing stock.

“We need urgent action on housing, such as housing built for seniors’ specific needs, in conjunction with aged care that recognises the realities of older people’s living circumstances,” Mr Grice says.

Could NORCs hold the answer?

A repeated complaint from survey respondents was a lack of age-appropriate housing and/or appealing retirement villages in desirable areas. Many bemoaned the lack of government and private investment into such facilities.

One type of retirement living option that is gaining popularity is the naturally occurring retirement community, or NORC.

In plain terms, a NORC is an organically occuring area of a town or city where more than 50 per cent of the residents are of retirement age, and who have joined together voluntarily to form an unofficial retirement community.

Many NORCs have popped up in some of the priciest spots in the country, including Sydney’s North Shore and the Melbourne CBD.

NORCs are often formed in apartment complexes as older people look to downsize from large family homes. These types of areas attract downsizers who don’t want to lose the community feel they may have once had.

Has housing affordability become a problem for you? What do you think needs to be done to address the issue? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Granny flat solution to housing crisis?

Written by Brad Lockyer

Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.

6 Comments

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    • I really feel for you. I am constantly hearing of this problem from people like ourselves but not a lot from the govt (state or federal). As I’ve gone through life, I’ve been a home owner, landlord and tenant. When we had an investment property, it was great to have a long-term tenant and you looked after them. Today it seems all investors want is the maximum return possible. Housing shortages didn’t happen overnight. In my opinion, govts chose to ignore this problem but it wont go away. Take care and stay safe.

    • Growing up after WWII we had a young family as lodgers and my grandmother occupying 2 rooms. 4 of us shared one bedroom with my parents in another. Bath hung on a nail near the outside toilet. No electricity in the house until I was 12. This was in London. Mum raised chickens and rabbits in the back yard to make money.

      We worked from the age of 12 on milk and newspaper rounds. No restaurants or pubs.

      OK things have changed from the good years. Tips to survive:-

      Lower your expectations
      Look to share a house with someone
      Young people join the defence forces
      Study hard to take opportunities for the future
      Host folks for coffee and tea at home
      Home cooked meals
      Buy in bulk and on special.
      Community shopping at Costco or the markets
      Declutter to Op shops and buy stuff there.
      Tell your kids times are tough and not to expect too much.
      Make your own cards for birthdays and Christmas
      Sell the car and use public transport or walk
      Give up the subscription services for tv.
      Watch kids sport at school rather than go to big sporting events.
      Do with the electronic gadgets you have.
      Give up smoking, gambling and alcohol.

      We can all tighten our belts and don’t expect the government to come to the rescue.

  1. My 88 year old Mother has been renting while she looks for a house after she sold her house in the country. She’s been looking for 2 years but the cost of housing has increased so dramatically that she can no longer afford the kind of house she wants. In the interim her landlord sold her rented unit and she has to move out. She hasn’t been able to find a rental property that she can afford so she will be moving in with me until she finds either a rental property or a house to buy.

  2. We received a rent increase just this week from $830 to $870 per week. We are 69 and 76 years old respectively and while we are struggling to pay the rent the alternatives do not exist.
    A tent city in Centennial or Hyde Park may be the answer.

  3. I agree. Local governments are to blame. Where I lived, the council let property owners develop their blocks in some areas then when they realised too many trees had to be removed because of this, they put a stop to it. This meant that people who wanted to reduce the size of their property were unable to do so.
    Now we’re in such a mess & there’s no end in sight.

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