Shelter WA report highlights increasing risk of homelessness for WA Seniors

Shelter WA, as part of Seniors Week 2015, has launched new research that finds a growing risk of homelessness and extreme housing related stress among Western Australia’s aging population.

The state’s problem is set to get worse by 2036, as the proportion of our population over 65 will reach 20%. Many of today’s middle aged people will experience extreme housing stress in their senior years, putting them at risk of homelessness. After a lifetime of working, raising families and caring for others, housing stress will be an unforeseen problem for many in their senior years.

“Decisions about housing are some of the biggest and most stressful life decisions we have to make. This report reminds all Western Australians, not just seniors, of the need to consider their long term housing choices in order to avoid housing stress, especially in later life. However, without systemic intervention from all levels of Government, this report finds that housing stress for many older Western Australians will be inevitable.” said Chantal Roberts, Shelter WA’s Executive Officer.

Some of the key findings of the report are:

  • Many seniors in private rental accommodation are currently in housing stress.  A single person on the Aged Pension, living in rental accommodation, is $12 short of meeting food, rent and living expenses each week.
  • Homelessness has increased 34% for people aged 55-64 from 2006 to 2011.
  • Demand for affordable housing for seniors will increase dramatically as the proportion of the population over 65 increases from 14% in 2011 to 20% in 2036.
  • 42% of home owners are entering retirement with a mortgage, far greater than ever before.

“These findings stress the need for improved strategies to support both the individuals at risk, and broader structural reforms to reduce those risk factors, and ensure older Western Australians have access to appropriate housing. Housing is crucial for people to remain healthy and stay engaged in the community as they age.” Ms Roberts explains.

Findings from the report reinforce the need for a Seniors Housing Strategy, within the State’s Affordable Housing Strategy 2010-2020. They also add to calls for a national affordable housing strategy, which includes seniors as a target group. What Western Australia’s own State Government can achieve on behalf of seniors will be greatly enhanced by systemic national reform.

The report identifies Swan, Gosnells, Rockingham and Stirling Central as the metropolitan areas with the highest number of seniors at risk of severe rental stress.

Some of the recommendations include linking Commonwealth Rent Assistance to local market rents, an indexation of the Aged Pension, improving security of tenure for seniors in the private rental market and increased diversity of affordable housing options to cater for the lifestyle changes of seniors.

Seniors generally require smaller housing located close to services, care and support, but such properties can be difficult to secure. An increase in the supply of social and affordable housing and specialised tenancy support services for seniors would have a positive impact at a local level. 

Download the report here.