Retiring into rental stress
AUSTRALIA enjoys one of the highest life expectancies in the world with one in seven people 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' lack 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.
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 per 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 published by the Department of Human Services, the maximum available payments are:
- Maximum Age Pension rates of $460 per week for singles and $698 per week for a couple.
- Maximum CRA of $68 per week for singles and $64 per week for a couple.
According to a 2019 Annual Superannuation Report Australia, these numbers are not adequate to support a comfortable lifestyle (defined as purchasing basic living needs and occasional recreational activities) which was calculated to be $831 per week for singles and $1174 per week for couples.
As a result, pensioners are having to resort to drastic measures to pay for rent. They have been reported to sacrifice basic living needs including food, heating or cooling, medication and visits to the doctor, thus decreasing their quality of life.
What Can be Done to Support the Cause?
Older Australians play a key role in building strong and healthy communities, contributing almost $39 billion each year in unpaid caring and volunteer work. To succeed in making change and improving the quality of life for older Australians, it is necessary to build upon supports in communities across Australia. Rental stress and financial insecurity do not have to be the way of the future for elderly Australians.
- Go to fixpensionpoverty.org.au to find out more and join the Benevolent Society and National Seniors' Fix Pension Poverty Campaign. This campaign aims to help reduce inequity among older Australians by lobbying for parliamentarians to improve current policies on CRA and Age Pension payments for seniors.
- Sign the petition to support Everybody's Home Fix the System Campaign on everybodyshome.com.au/petition which is lobbying to increase CRA payments and end the housing crisis for anyone in need.
- Lastly, please continue to raise awareness among your friends, family, neighbours and co-workers.
Jacqueline Nielsen and Fatima Amershi are University of Queensland, Master of Occupational Therapy students.