Ticking time bomb of housing for older people needs addressing in State Budget

COTA SA, the peak advocacy body for older people in South Australia, is urging the Liberal Government to make a commitment to address escalating housing stress and homelessness among older South Australians in its 2018/19 State Budget.

The housing ‘ticking time bomb' is one of a number of issues identified that COTA SA has included recommendations for in its 2018 State Budget Submission, delivered to the Premier and Ministers last week.

The organisation is calling on the Government to:

  • Include disadvantaged older South Australians in the state's Housing Strategy, and to set targets to meet the needs of older people living in housing stress
  • Fund a service that assists vulnerable older people to secure ongoing and appropriate accommodation
  • Explore innovative housing models for disadvantaged older people (such as shared equity schemes, co-housing and intergenerational models).

COTA SA Chief Executive, Jane Mussared, says many older South Australians are concerned about housing and homelessness, which is supported by data from the 2017 Ageing on the Edge project report - "Finding a Suitable Home for Older People at Risk of Homelessness in SA".

"The report highlights the very real and alarming statistic that more than 4,900 people aged over 65 in both metropolitan and regional areas are under significant housing stress right now," Ms Mussared said.

"Access to affordable, safe and appropriate housing is one of the most pressing issues causing financial and psychological stress for an emerging group of older South Australians. A growing number of older residents don't own their own home and have no financial resources, putting them at risk of becoming homeless.

"As stated in the report, in many local government areas there has been at least a 50 per cent increase in the number of people in financial housing stress, and the rate of people affected will increase very fast as our population ages and the supply of affordable and secure rental accommodation diminishes," she said.

Ms Mussared says private rental is rarely suitable for the physical needs of older people, and the short-term leases available in the private rental market put stress on older tenants who simply lack the physical and financial resources to move house each time a rental agreement is due for renewal.

"Moving house also relies upon an older person having enormous and regular help available from family and friends - for many older people this is simply not realistic," she said.

"Women often face additional financial pressures due to a range of factors including relationship breakdown later in life, long breaks in employment because of caring responsibilities, lack of access to superannuation and unemployment or underemployment later in their careers.

"In our State Budget Submission we are calling on politicians to commit to the development of a comprehensive housing strategy for long-term, sustainable change," she said.

"South Australia is also in desperate need for a specialist housing service that helps older people on low incomes to navigate, pay for, adapt and use existing housing options to prevent them from becoming homeless.

"The Victorian government-funded service ‘Home at last' is a great example of a one-stop support model for older people that not only alleviates housing pressures, but also shows that early intervention programs make better economic sense than waiting for the crisis of homelessness.

"Now is the time to develop sustainable strategies around affordable housing and ageing to ease the financial and mental health burden that unstable housing causes for older people."

COTA SA has welcomed the State Government's pre-election promise to engage older people in the co-design of services, and applauds the initiative to implement adult safeguarding legislation and services.

COTA SA's State Budget Submission outlines five key problem areas affecting older South Australians, and provides 16 high priority recommendations to address the issues through funding in the upcoming State Budget, further supporting the "Ageing Well" focus laid out by the Government. The focus areas span employment, health, transport, housing and isolation.

"More than 633,000 South Australians are aged over 50. They are a highly diverse group of people with different needs, and their voices need to be heard. As a society we need to do more to ensure that older people can continue to be active members of the communities they love and live in," said Ms Mussared.

Download a copy of the budget submission

Download a copy of the media release

COTA SA is an older people's movement run by, for and with older people. COTA SA represents the aspirations, interests and rights of 633,000 older South Australians.

Further information about COTA SA can be found at www.cotasa.org.au.

For all interview requests please contact:

Silvia Knoppien - silvia@communikate.net.au | 0467 043 173
Bec Tape - rtape@communikate.net.au | 0438 806 983