Retiring into rental stress; How do we address challenges to ensure healthy communities.

 
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Byline: Jacqueline Nielsen and Fatima Amershi Master of Occupational Therapy Students

AUSTRALIA enjoys one of the highest life expectancies in the world with one in seven individuals aged 65 and over.

However, recent studies have found that a growing number of Australians are facing an uncertain housing future owing to fractured communication between government policies, particularly the Age Pension and Commonwealth Rental Assistance Programs (CRA). As a result, the "golden years" lacks lustre for many older adults, with 24 per cent of Australians aged 65 and over living below the poverty line, having an annual income of $22,300 per year.

Beth, 94, has recently been forced to uproot her life and move from her house in Sydney to a small unit in Brisbane following the passing of her husband as she could not afford her house anymore without her husband's pension. She currently receives $933 a fortnight on the Widow's Pension, however, this is still not sufficient to cover her rent of $1158 a fortnight. As a result, she is having to spend $300-400 a month out of her savings, forcing her to sell her car and take public transport, impacting her ability to access the community.

"I couldn't afford the car anymore so I had to take the bus ... carrying groceries on there was far too hard for me so sometimes I went without."

Unfortunately, Beth's story is not an uncommon one faced by today's pensioners.

Decrease in Social Housing and Home Ownership

The Australian Housing Report cited that the social housing stock is not keeping pace with the demands of low-income renters, forcing many to rent privately. The rising cost of private rentals is unaccounted for within the Age Pension and CRA payments, resulting in 48 per cent of pensioners experiencing rental stress. On average, rental costs across major states is $330/week. Given the natural physical changes that come with age, finding suitable options with longer term tenancy and home modifications is challenging to come across at an affordable price. This perpetual insecurity combined with the stress housing costs are the source of anxiety, depression and stress for many pensioners.

Age Pension and CRA is Inadequate to Support a Decent Standard of Living

A recent report by the Benevolent Society found that living on the Age Pension whilst living in private rental accommodation is the biggest indicator of poverty among older Australians.

At a glance, when considering the 2019 Age Pension and CRA rates...

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