More affordable housing options for older Australians needed as some are at risk of homelessness. Image: Canva.
  • Three alternatives were preferred
  • Challenges exist for those looking for housing solutions
  • Those providing assistance also faced challenges and limitations

Some older Australians are at risk of homelessness, with research finding a lack of information and few suitable alternatives available for the most vulnerable members of our society.

New research from The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) has found three likely alternative housing solutions and uncovered other issues facing older, low-income, households.

Uncertainty later in life

The research titled, “Housing aspirations of precariously housed older Australians’, undertaken for AHURI by researchers from Curtin University, University of South Australia, RMIT University, and Flinders University, investigated older, low-income households’ preferences for a range of alternative housing models and examined which would best meet their needs.

It was found that the precarious property problems particularly pertained to rentals and mortgages post-retirement.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Amity James from Curtin University said older, low-income households were more likely to experience precarious housing, particularly if they were living in the private rental sector or if they entered retirement with a mortgage.

“Participants’ knowledge of alternative housing models was limited, which reflects the relative scarcity of these options and the dominance of mainstream models, especially home ownership, social rental housing and private rental,” Associate Professor James said.

“There is also limited information on the available options, how to access them, legalities and other information pertinent to decision making.”

Lack of information, lack of services

Not only is it difficult to come by the right information, but Associate Professor James said that in Australia, the supporting agencies that exist to help older people navigate their housing options have limitations and challenges.

“Obstacles, including language and cultural barriers, physical accessibility (for people with disability, for example), previous bad experiences, visual and hearing impairment, low literacy skills and low internet and digital literacy can all inhibit an individual’s ability to successfully navigate their housing options,” Associate Professor James said.

“For culturally and linguistically diverse older people, access and navigation processes can be even more difficult. Our research shows the need for centralised and comprehensive housing information to be delivered both online and in person.”

Associate Professor Amity James, Curtin University

Alternative housing solutions

The research considered seven alternative housing models including:

  • Mixed-use apartment building,
  • Cooperative housing,
  • Communal housing,
  • Transportable home,
  • Shared equity homeownership,
  • Dual key property, and
  • Village-style housing.

“Our research modelled seven alternative housing models, each with a unique combination of tenure, construction, location, social composition, shared space, environmentally sustainable and smart technology characteristics,” Associate Professor James said.

“We found three of the seven alternative housing models were substantially preferred by low-income, older Australians, including a shared equity homeownership model, a cooperative housing model, and a transportable home model.

“All three alternative housing models met the short and long-term housing needs of the respondents and would also deliver benefits in terms of people’s non-shelter aspirations for the home including independence, privacy, security of tenure, ability to have companion animals and room for friends, family or a carer to stay.”

The most preferred option was shared equity housing, according to the research, with 67 per cent wanting to live in a separate house, 14 per cent in a townhouse or duplex, and only nine per cent in an apartment.

The research also found there was a strong liking for rights of ownership or a long lease option, recording 84 per cent and 83 per cent respectively.

Other arrangements saw lower percentages. Housing options that included other tenure arrangements, such as shared governance and management (59 per cent) and land owned and retained by government (68 per cent), were considered less desirable.



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