COTA recognises that many older Australians preference is to remain living independently in the house and the community they have lived in for much of their lives. However, an increasing number of older Australians, in particular widows and single women, do not have secure or stable accommodation. While jurisdictional responsibility for housing is predominantly State and Territory, and Local Governments responsibility, there are various things the Australian Government can do to provide stable housing for older Australians. COTA supports the development of a national plan to address affordable housing for all Australians, including specific Older Person’s Housing strategies.
In 2017 COTA Australia’s annual national policy forum was titled ‘AAA Housing for Older Australians – making it Affordable, Accessible and Appropriate’. We placed the spotlight on what housing means in later life and explore current policy issues and future trends around housing for older Australians. You can read the presentations from the line-up of policy makers, academics, consumers, advocates and others who discussed how some of the pressing housing issues of our time affect older people here.
While some older home owners have experienced considerable capital growth, this does not necessary reflect their income levels. Access to equity release and other financial products can be critical to funding the ongoing maintenance of their property. Importantly, for other home owners particularly those in outer suburban and regional areas lower levels of capital growth have occurred.
Most Australians ‘downsizing’ wish to remain in the same geographical area of their lifelong social environments. This presents unique considerations where it may be just as or more expensive to buy a newer smaller property than it is to sell an older larger property in the same area. Where such a situation does not occur, there are fiscal impacts on pensioners when selling their properties creating a disincentive for older Australians to seek alternative property solutions.
At the 2016 Census, those aged under 65 years old were 14% less likely to own their own home, than those over 65 years (64.5% home ownership by those under 65 compared to 78.5% over 65years. This means an increasing number of Australians will rent their home throughout their lives. Affordability of private rental markets for older Australians and the availability of social or public housing is also a critical ongoing issue facing numerous older Australians. For those on low means, public or social housing has historically been the best solution to the increasing costs and insecure rental tenure. However, the declining investment by all levels of Government into public housing has made this option only available to people in crisis. COTA continues to advocate for an increase in rent assistance to overcome the sharp increase in the private rental market.
COTA strongly supports the inclusion of universal design principles in all new properties being built, to ensure their cost-effective adaption to the variety of unique needs that may be required by older people when declining in functionality, as well as people with other functional disabilities. COTA is an active member of Livable Housing Australia which works to achieve this objective.