Monday, 14 March 2022

A new report released has shone a light on the fastest-growing cohort of homeless Australians: Women over the age of 55.

With a foreword by the Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson AO, the report by the Retirement Living Council provides a set of policy solutions to stop more older women slipping into homelessness.

Retirement Living Council President Marie-Louise MacDonald said there is an urgent need to support older women in the “missing middle.”

“These are women who have done everything that society has asked of them, yet they are in housing limbo because they have too much money to qualify for social housing and too little money to buy a house,” Ms MacDonald said.

“Their age is often a big barrier to securing a housing loan, and the pressure of paying rent quickly eats into modest retirement savings.

“These are women who do not deserve to be staring down the barrel of homelessness at this point in their lives.

“The suite of policy recommendations outlined in this landmark report, aims to provide practical solutions for governments, which would help more older Australian women find safe, secure, long-term homes,” she said.

The report provides eight key recommendations including introducing support services, rolling out awareness campaigns, developing a portal for pre-listings that would give eligible people priority access before properties hit the market, and introducing a dedicated women’s’ housing engagement officer. It also recommends making more retirement living properties eligible for Commonwealth Rental Assistance, introducing government-backed loans to help eligible people enter retirement communities, allowing early access to superannuation to help older women secure retirement living housing, as well as new incentives and grants to support innovative retirement living projects. 

“We know as many as 240,000 women aged over 55 are considered at risk of homelessness,” Ms MacDonald said.

"Retirement living is not a ‘shovel ready’ solution, it’s actually a ‘resident ready’ solution,” she said.

The Honourable Dr Kay Patterson AO, the Age Discrimination Commissioner, has thrown her support behind the report, acknowledging the potential changes that retirement living can make in the lives of older, vulnerable women.

“The issue of older women at risk of homelessness or who are homeless requires a range of responses. I commend the Property Council and the retirement living sector for stepping up and suggesting how it could contribute to addressing this ever-increasing problem,” Dr Patterson said. 

Access the report here.