Bad news for older people at risk of homelessness

Article published 20 February 2023

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LAST year CPSA was one of many organisations and individuals who made a submission to the NSW Legislative Council’s Inquiry into homelessness amongst older people aged over 55 in New South Wales.

The submission covered the worsening housing crisis and how older people who don’t own their own home are a growing group who are extremely vulnerable to homelessness.

This will come as no surprise to anyone waiting on the state’s public and community housing waiting list of over 57,000. Or those trying to navigate the private rental market in NSW where the median cost of a one-bedroom dwelling is $470 a week.

The inquiry report was released in October last year but the NSW Government has only now released their response to the findings.

Of the 40 recommendations in the report the government supported just nine, supported another 24 ‘in principle’ and ‘noted’ the remaining seven.

Note that ‘supporting in principle’ means that they acknowledge there is a problem and that the suggested solution could help, but they haven’t committed to making the change.

Some of the ‘noted’ recommendations include key asks of CPSA’s submission such as establishing a housing service targeted towards older people. At the moment there are specialised services for young people, families and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, yet this recommendation is not being considered despite older people becoming more and more vulnerable to homelessness.

Another ‘noted’ recommendation is to ‘investigate the costs and implications of lowering the age limit for access to the Housing Elderly Persons priority group from 80 years to 55 years and from 55 years to 45 years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’.

The fact that this isn’t even being considered leaves many older people without any hope of getting public or community housing until they are 80, at which point they’re likely to have already experienced homelessness.

All this comes at the same time that the Housing for the Aged Action Group, of which CPSA is a member, has released research showing the growing risk of homelessness for this very group.

From 2011 to 2021 the number of people over 55 renting in the private market has grown from 137,529 to 239,937. This is because less people are owning their homes without a mortgage in retirement and a smaller percentage of people are living in public or community housing because of the severe shortage of dwellings.

The NSW Council of Social Service has called on the Government to build 5,000 public and community housing dwellings each year for the next ten years to start the process of addressing the current drastic shortfall.

The Centre for Social Impact has found however, that since 2016 the NSW Government has only committed to building under 10,000 new public and community housing homes by 2026.

An estimated 4,205 properties have also been sold, angering many residents who have lost their homes and communities. Last weekend these residents and concerned organisations, including CPSA, attended the Rally for Housing Justice to defend public housing and promote rights for all renters.

Much more must be done to make sure everyone can live in an affordable and secure home and aren’t left to pay rents they can’t afford until being pushed into homelessness.

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