National leadership needed to tackle seniors’ housing shortage: report

Federal Government needs to provide leadership on the shortage of seniors housing, while not-for-profit providers could do more to deliver more age-appropriate accommodation, a report concludes.

Federal Government needs to provide leadership on the shortage of seniors housing, while not-for-profit providers could do more to deliver more age-appropriate accommodation, a report concludes.

Australia requires a whole-of-government approach to address the pressing shortage of age-appropriate and affordable housing for seniors, according to a new report from the National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre.

The Productive Ageing Centre report
The Productive Ageing Centre report

The Federal Government seems to be “distancing itself from housing issues” generally and national leadership has been neglected for some time, said the report authored by Professor Wendy Lacey from the Faculty of Law at The University of South Australia and Dr Eileen Webb from The University of Western Australia’s law faculty.

While the Commonwealth was needed to provide leadership, state and local governments also needed to work closely together to achieve the overall objective of providing a variety of suitable housing types in established areas, the report said.

“There has been a lack of leadership and cooperation between all levels of government in relation to the housing agenda generally,” the authors concluded.

“Housing issues, particularly affordability and availability, are often spoken about but little, it seems, is being done to address the issues. This is particularly the case with seniors’ housing, yet a focus on seniors’ housing options by all levels of government has the potential to stimulate options for the housing market as a whole.”

Role for NFP providers

The report also found there was a greater role for not-for-profit organisations, saying they were “poised to deliver significantly in age-appropriate housing and have the financial strength through strong balance sheets to contribute significant capital in this regard.”

However, some not-for-profits were not as savvy as they could be in terms of commercial development and needed to up-skill to be able to effectively influence the housing market, the authors wrote.

“Not-for-profit providers have the ability to partner with a commercial developer to leverage their commercial acumen…. Providers can access grants and land and could benefit from a joint venture where they provided the land component to the development, while a developer delivers affordable housing that could be used for seniors,” they said.

The report, Seniors downsizing on their own terms: Overcoming planning, legal and policy impediments to the creation of alternative retirement communities was based on a literature review as well as interviews and an online survey of seniors.

Respondents had either downsized, were considering downsizing, or had decided against it.

As well as examining seniors’ views on downsizing, the authors looked at what accommodation options were both currently available and emerging.

Barriers to age-appropriate housing

Age-friendly and adaptable housing had the potential to both strengthen neighbourhoods and improve the wellbeing of older people, the report said. There was an abundance of ideas regarding design and the delivery of age-appropriate housing that was both attractive to older people and could blend with the local environment.

However, older people who were considering downsizing cited issues such as the lack of availability of suitable properties and a number of cost deterrents that often outweighed the perceived benefits of changing residence.

There was also a number of legal, planning and policy deterrents that impinged on the creation of alternate concepts for retirement communities and the ease and ability of older people to downsize, the report found.

The present legal and planning regime requires reform to provide for innovation and flexibility in seniors housing arrangements,” it said.

Launching the report, National Seniors chief executive Michael O’Neill said that although many retirees were content with staying in their existing homes, a significant number wanted to move to something smaller but were worried about the financial implications and the lack of affordable and appropriate alternatives.

Mr O’Neill said the report showed the need to address the overall barriers to downsizing. “The reality is that seniors are interested in innovative housing concepts and keen to embrace them, but availability and affordability is an issue,” he said.

Mary Wood, executive director of the Retirement Living Council, said that targeted reforms to the aged pension means test to remove the current disincentive to downsize would be good public policy that would benefit seniors and make the pension system fairer and more sustainable.

“Older Australians need access to all retirement living options, and the penalty on downsizing should be removed for all pensioners,” she told AAA.

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Tags: accommodation, age friendly design, housing, mary-wood, michael o'neil, national-seniors, retirement-living-council, university-of-south-australia, university-of-western-australia, wendy lacey,

4 thoughts on “National leadership needed to tackle seniors’ housing shortage: report

  1. Why doesn’t this take in older people who are renting. It seems to only be for those who are fortunate enough to have their own home. Us renters need more affordable and aged friendly housing too!

  2. Couldn’t agree more Rosemary. Too old to purchase a home, worked all my life, have savings and aged pension but no financial institution wants to know about my meager superannuation – i stopped work to rear the children, have worked tirelessly throughout my life and the usual case with females of my mature age – small amount of super, low wages because i’ve worked in caring positions, aged care and disability. Looked after others but not myself it appears – it also appears that we are totally forgotten at all levels of government – well maybe just maybe I might end with with a granny flat in one of my children’s homes – they are okay they own theirs, i’ve never had a chance to do so.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with Rosemary Doolan’s comments. I am in a similar situation! I am working hard in community, trying to make ends meet and going without (food, heating etc) whilst my rent keeps going up.

  4. Sadly, the future for older renters does look very bleak. An increasing number of retired people, especially single women, are struggling with unaffordable and insecure rental housing. Organisations who are good at providing affordable rental housing in the community housing sector tend to focus on working age people. There is a great need for that sector to work together with those who can advocate for older people to help meet this growing need.

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