THE prevalence of housing affordability stress has pushed the Federal Government into taking action to find long-term and sustainable solutions.
Ian Winter from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute said the affordable housing initiatives outlined in the recent federal budget are aimed at providing dedicated housing, with the rent fixed at a certain discount from the market rate, through not-for-profit community housing providers.
"The budget also included a range of support measures to try and grow the community housing sector and the federal government signalled a renegotiation of the federal/state agreement around affordable housing to try drive new, affordable supply in particular," Mr Winter said.
Another Federal Government initiative to kick-start the building of the dedicated housing is a bond aggregator.
The aggregator is expected to act as a financial intermediary between the community housing providers and the financial institutions. It will raise bonds and sell them to the institutional investors. The funds raised will allow the aggregator to set up cheaper financing options so that it can lend to the housing providers on a long-term basis and at cheaper rates than the banks are offering.
These initiatives have been driven by the government having to face the facts that while some 84% of over 65 year olds are in their own homes, the remaining 16% are caught up in the growing crisis of housing affordability.
"Only 6% of over 65s are private renters, but a high proportion of them, some 68%, are in housing affordability stress which basically means they're on a low income and they are paying more than 40% of that income on housing costs," Mr Winter said.
"About 5% of them are public tenants with security of tenure and the rent charged at 25% of their income. But for the private renters, it's a different matter."
At the last Census count, there were also about 6,000 people aged over 65 who are homeless.
"About a third of them are in boarding houses, a quarter couch surfing and moving around, about a fifth are severely overcrowded and about one tenth are sleeping rough," Mr Winter said.
"It's a significant concern and a big issue for homelessness services to expand the size and scope of their services to try and meet some of that need.
"One consequence of the very high level of housing affordability stress is reflected in the homeless numbers."
Since there is little chance that those older Australians in private rentals are likely to turn around and buy a home, their next option is to join the long public housing waiting list.
But, it's the lack of public housing that is causing the greatest headache.
There is a continual growth of high and medium density apartment living supply in the urban and urban-fringe areas, but Mr Winter highlighted, the pricing of this housing has been skewed to the expensive end of the affordability spectrum.
"This is why the Federal and state governments initiatives are trying to bridge the gap between full-on public housing and where the market is providing to try to create this new segment of affordable, rental accommodation," he said.
However, Mr Winter expects it could be 10 or more years before we see significant growth in dedicated affordable housing.