Homeless woman
Homeless woman Paul Vasarhelyi

Housing initiative helping homeless women

IT'S hardly a secret anymore. Report after report has identified the dreadful plight of older women and homelessness.

This relatively new and growing demographic of homeless women largely comes from everyday backgrounds, their accommodation crisis does not typically identify with generational homelessness, addictions or long-term unemployment. The majority have been independant, worked all their lives and raised children, but are now faced with a limited income and many, for the first time, need support.

The factors underpinning this housing insecurity/homelessness tend to reach back to issues such as low superannuation, a marriage breakup, loss of a spouse or poor health.

Women's Property Initiatives (WIP), led by CEO Jeanette Large has identified a significant group of women over 55, who have a modest level of assets and don't qualify for social housing, yet they have limited or no working career ahead of them. They certainly don't have the financial capacity to access a mortgage or own a home on their own. These women are locked into the private rental market, characterised by insecurity of tenure and diminishing affordability. They are often forced to watch their savings being viciously eroded by exorbitant private rents.

The innovative Older Women's Housing Program takes a different approach to the supply of affordable housing. It will enable low-income women over 55 with modest assets to invest them to secure a home for life - or for as long as it is suitable for them. They will still have to pay rent on a portion of the property, but they will have peace of mind from knowing that the rent is affordable, and their capital investment and their tenancy is secure as they age.

So far WIP has settled on a parcel of land in Beaconsfield in Melbourne's outer east for the pilot of WPI's Older Women's Housing Program and have a sizeable group of women who have expressed interest in participating. Four privates, accessible, architect designed town-houses will be constructed on the site which is close to public transport, health services, shopping, and community facilities. Funding was secured from the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation and the Mercy Foundation for the pilot.

Women's Property Initiatives older women's housing program have now achieved planning approval and council endorsed plans for the Beaconsfield development. And last week they were proud to announce on LinkedIn, that the design completed by by6 Studio Bright and Eckersley Garden Archite4cture and the planning outcome facilitated by Beveridge Williams has gained council approval.

This housing model will change the future for older women who don't have the assets to achieve home ownership but are able to invest in the affordable housing. Their capital will be preserved, and they will no longer be locked into an increasing unaffordable private rental market.

WPI aims to roll-out this program on a much wider scale and hopefully create a model that can be picked up by Government as a viable funding alternative for community housing organisations to house older women at significantly lower cost. A comprehensive evaluation of the pilot will be presented to both State and Federal Governments to be considered as an ongoing funding program that can be sourced by Community Housing Organisations. If you would like more information about the program, please contact us at admin@wpi.org.au 

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