COTA SA urges SA Government to act on findings from Ageing on the Edge project

Media Release 17th September 2017

A new report based on the latest Census data warns a severe lack of affordable housing may lead to a growing number of older South Australians resorting to couch surfing or sleeping in their cars.

COTA SA, the peak advocacy body for older people in South Australia, has urged the State Government to take heed of findings in the Ageing on the Edge project report -"Finding a Suitable Home for Older People at Risk of Homelessness in SA".

The report, authored by Jeff Fiedler from Housing for the Aged Advocacy Group (HAAG) and Dr Debbie Faulkner from the University of Adelaide's Centre for Housing Urban and Regional Planning (CHURP), indicates that around 4,600 older South Australians in both metropolitan and regional areas are at risk.
Chair of COTA SA's Policy Council and Vice President Anne Burgess says the report clearly lays out the challenges facing many older people in our community and includes a series of practical recommendations to address the serious issue.

Among the report's key recommendations is the establishment of an older persons housing strategy to guide longer-term action and an immediate injection of more and better targeted assistance for older people who are struggling in the private rental market and are at risk of homelessness right now.

Ms Burgess says it makes economic sense for the SA Government to take action now to establish early interventions for a group of older people who are vulnerable to homelessness and the associated decline in mental and physical health that it brings.

"Crisis care and premature entry to aged care are much more expensive than timely, adequate and secure long-term housing for those who are at risk," Ms Burgess said.

"As an example of why timely intervention to prevent homelessness makes such sense, residential aged care costs more on average than the cost of home care - but home care relies upon an older person have a place to call home."

The report indicates that over the past five years, South Australia has seen a 48% increase in people aged over 65 years paying over 30% of their income in rent.

In many local government areas, there has been at least a 50% 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 rental diminishes. 

"For some people a sudden inability to pay rent will follow the death of a partner or separation. With short notice periods to vacate, it is important people know where they can go for help in such crisis situations," Ms Burgess said.

"The government has the opportunity to do something; but the time is now.

"We urge the State Government to follow the lead of other states which have already recognised the risk to their population and their budgets and have used the Ageing on the Edge data to establish strategies around affordable housing and ageing."

The research was a partnership between Housing for the Aged Action Group (HAAG) and The University of Adelaide's Centre for Housing Urban and Regional Planning (CHURP) and funded by The Wicking Trust. It has been handed to Council on the Ageing South Australia's (COTA SA) Older Persons Housing Roundtable and the South Australian Government for urgent action.

COTA SA is an older people's movement run by, for and with older people. COTA SA represents the aspirations, interests and rights of 590,000 older South Australians, with 17,000 individual members and 250 organisation members. In 2017 COTA SA turns 60.

For all interview requests with Anne Burgess contact:
Bec Tape - rtape@communikate.net.au | 0438 806 983

Download a copy of the media release

Download a copy of the report: Finding a Suitable Home for Older People at Risk of Homelessness in South Australia (7Mb)