Ageing in place without a home

Policymakers seem to have forgotten that the ability to age in place rests on one critical ingredient – a home.

Many older people want to stay in their own home and remain connected to the people and places they know. 

The Australian Government's aged care policy has caught on and is shifting focus from residential aged care to supporting older people to remain in their home through home care.

This shift in aged care policy has come at a time when housing affordability and rates of home ownership are declining.

Public and community is becoming a less viable option for people as well, with the waiting list sitting at over 60,000 households.

Without homeownership and social housing, people are forced to find other, often more insecure, forms of accommodation. This can include in the private rental market, boarding houses, long term stays in motels and living informally with family.

Currently, NSW housing law offers limited to no protections for many forms of accommodation.

In mainstream tenancies and boarding houses there is a lack of protection against eviction, rent increases. Also missing is the lack of legal assurance that individuals can modify premises if a disability requires it.

In strata schemes people can be forced to sell their home if 75 per cent of owners agree to sell the strata scheme.

For people living informally with family, if things go wrong their only option is to pursue legal action through the Supreme Court, which is almost impossible for an older person with a low income.

These examples are just a snapshot of some of the gaps in NSW housing law.
Now we know the problems, the next stage is to find the solutions.

NSW Housing policy needs to consider the challenge of an ageing population. At the same time, Australian retirement policy needs to consider the changing landscape of what we call home, as the homeownership rates decline across all age groups.

With a rapidly ageing population and increasing shortage of appropriate and affordable accommodation, addressing the housing needs of older people should be a policy priority of both the Australian and NSW Governments.