Above: Professor Andrew Jones presents at the ACSA National Conference last week.
By Yasmin Noone
The sector is in danger of slowly but surely crumbling if the housing needs of older people are not met and housing policies are not better integrated into the realm of aged care, an expert said at the Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) National Conference last week.
Director of the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) Queensland Research Centre, Professor Andrew Jones, presented on the future of housing for older people at the peak body’s annual event, emphasising the inherent role that housing plays in maintaining a secure and sustainable standard of living for all.
He also stressed the essential role the issue should play in the development of effective aged care policy, and indeed, aged care reform.
“Housing is the cornerstone of housing policy for older Australians and an ageing population,” Prof Jones said.
“I really don’t want to exaggerate this but…. the cornerstone is just beginning to crumble a little.”
Not only is there currently a “chronic lack of community housing”, but Prof Jones believes there is also an increasing number of older Australians who, for the first time in their lives, find themselves homeless or at risk of homelessness because of prevailing circumstances.
“There is [also] a significant group of older home owners who are asset poor, [those people whose home is of a low value and have limited security]…and who are not enjoying the benefits of home ownership.
“Housing will also be a prevalent issue for women who, because of life or change of life circumstances, will experience housing insecurity.
“…There is a need to understand that this is going on.”
Unfortunately for everyone involved, Mr Jones said, there is no silver bullet solution to deal with Australia’s current housing issues.
“We do know that it’s a problem that’s getting worse.”
However, he added, “the sector is currently a minor player in this issue and it has the potential to be a major player”.
“Providers need to move into affordable housing in the same scale that they moved into retirement villages and residential aged care facilities in the last century.”
Prof Jones also proposed that retirement villages (RV’s) form part of the sector’s response to mounting housing issues.
“We need to be aware that RV’s don’t sit separately to the aged care system. In a sense, they are an integral part of it and need to be part of the thinking about the reform of the aged care sector.”
He also recommended that the Productivity Commission (PC) conduct an inquiry specific to housing.
“Housing is one of the few most important social policies that the PC has not yet looked at. The PC has looked at every other thing but housing action remains an issue that is yet to get on the political agenda.
“…The underpinning challenge is to put housing at the centre or more at the centre of policy that responds to the ageing population.
“This is important as housing is important to the wellbeing of older people. This is not just the perspective of gerontologists but older people themselves who tell us it is important to them.
“Housing is not just about shelter- it plays a strong role in health prevention, it facilitates social engagement [and more].
“If we get housing policy right we are well underway to getting ageing policy right.”