Housing costs force age pensioners into poverty

QUEENSLAND couples who rely on the age pension and rent in the private market are at the greatest risk of living in poverty compared to other seniors, according to the Queensland Council of Social Service's (QCOSS) latest Cost of Living Report.  

QCOSS' fourth Cost of Living Report - Special Edition: The cost of living and age pensioner households was released today as part of the Queensland Government's Seniors Week, and draws attention to one of the biggest issues facing aging Queenslanders today.  

"If you don't own your home and are on the age pension you will be at risk of living below the poverty line," said QCOSS CEO Mr Mark Henley.

"Our pensioners cost of living report has shown consistently since we started it four years ago that age pensioners renting, are at high risk of being unable to afford a basic standard of living.  

"This reaffirms our call for urgent targeted action to address the significant costs associated with providing affordable housing for Queenslanders who depend on the age pension for their survival."  

"We welcome the Queensland Government's announcement of Queensland - age friendly community strategy and want to stress the importance of focusing on Queenslanders struggling to survive on the age pension.

  "Couples represented by our example household of two pensioners renting privately are being forced to make tough decisions every day as to whether to pay their electricity bill, buy medication or put decent food on the table," Mr Henley said.

Mr Henley said with the number of Queenslanders aged 65 to 84 expected to more than double by 2050, it is highly likely the number of people on the age pension will also increase and place additional pressure on the state's social services and other related support services.

"While cost of living pressures have eased somewhat, it is important to remember that these figures are based on a very austere standard of living with little room to cope with any unexpected costs or crises leaving Queensland's age pensioners living on the edge."  

According to the latest Cost of Living Report, age pensioner couples renting privately in Brisbane earn, on average, nearly $31 per week less than what is needed to afford a basic standard of living and are most likely to be experiencing housing stress, which means they spend more than a third of their income on housing costs.  

"Despite some positive changes, such as the slow-down in the increasing cost of essential items such as public transport, electricity, water and sewerage and rents when compared to the last five years, the situation still remains bleak for many of Queensland's seniors relying on the age pension," Mr Henley said.  

"It is clear that state and federal government concessions play a critical role in supporting age pensioners to meet a basic standard of living," he said.  

"What is also clear is that by adjusting and better targeting these concessions we could help to ensure the financial sustainability of older Queenslanders struggling to survive on the age pension."  

For more than 50 years QCOSS has been a leading force for social change to eliminate poverty and disadvantage. With members throughout Queensland, QCOSS supports a strong community service sector.  

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