MEDIA RELEASE: The Forgotten Faces of the looming Housing Crisis: older Australians

Leading seniors advocate, COTA Australia, will today host a housing policy summit, with experts warning of a looming crisis as older Australians face mounting pressure from rising rental prices and carrying mortgages into retirement.

Key experts, policy-makers, advocacy groups and older Australians will be congregating at the National Press Club in Canberra to discuss new ways to address the changing housing needs of older Australians including affordability, housing security and housing options appropriate for older Australians, now and in the future.

Chief Executive of COTA Australia, Ian Yates, said older Australians are in many respects, sadly, the forgotten faces of the housing crisis; the 70 year old divorcee facing homelessness, the 80 year old who has had a knee replacement and wants to right-size but can’t find anything appropriate and affordable in their existing neighbourhood, the 68 year old couple retiring still with a significant mortgage.

“Older Australians are increasingly falling through the cracks in the growing housing affordability and supply challenge, with a growing number of older Australians needing to rent, rather than owning a home outright.

“We are already starting to see rates of home ownership by older Australians decline, and this is forecasted to drop even further in the next 10-15 years.

“This trend is already exerting extra pressure on the rental market and on many older Australians who are struggling to pay their rent, while also juggling other rising expenses like energy.

“There is a whole group of people currently in their 50’s and 60’s who will be retiring as renters, or if they are lucky enough to own a house, facing the prospect of retiring with a mortgage.”

The 2017 Rental Affordability Snapshot report by Anglicare Australia painted a dire picture for older Australian renters, with a mere 6% of the market deemed affordable for a single older person living on the Age Pension.

Keynote speaker, John Daley, CEO of the Grattan Institute, warns there are more storm clouds on the horizon for older Australians, describing the looming housing crisis as a ‘ticking time bomb’ for older citizens.

Issues relating to housing in the pipeline that will hit older Australians hard in the next two decades include:

  1. Falling rates of home ownership
  2. Rising rental prices and a hostile private rental property market
  3. Scarcity in social and community housing
  4. Increasing number of older Australians retiring with a mortgage
  5. Rental housing not fit for or secure enough to meet the physical needs of older people
  6. Inadequate supply of suitable housing for older people to downsize, while remaining in or close to their pre-existing community

“We must address these issues immediately if we want to stand a fighting chance to mitigate the severity of the looming housing affordability crisis and to safeguard the future of older Australians before it is too late,” said Daley.

“The COTA National Policy Forum is an opportunity to get to the heart of what housing means for people in later life,” said Mr Yates.

“We are dealing with a vastly different economic landscape than 10 years ago and policy makers must come up to speed with the key issues and trends in housing for older Australians, including re-evaluating assumptions about home ownership that underpin age pension policy.”

Media contact: Ian Yates 0418 835 439, Bronte Kerr 0411 676 269

COTA Australia is the peak policy development, advocacy and representation organisation for older Australians, representing COTAs in every State and Territory and through them over 500,000 older Australians.