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Older women need solutions

In the growing discourse around affordable housing, the federal and some state governments are edging forwards. Recently proposed changes have merit, but they may exclude poorer older women in need of housing, warns Susan Ryan at Pearls and Irritations.

Single, older women are amongst the most marginalised groups in terms of their access to safe and affordable housing. The 2011 Census found that 36% of older homeless people were women and the number of older women renting in the private rental market increased from 91,000 in 2006 to 135,000 in 2011.The numbers would have grown significantly since then. Older women in today’s inflated rental market are vulnerable to big rent hikes, or to lease terminations, leaving them facing homelessness.

Their circumstances require policy focus, and it seems that with the new measures recently proposed or announced, focus is lacking.

We have a crisis of housing affordability affecting all age groups including older women. If a substantial increase in supply of affordable housing is not forthcoming soon, there will be more cohorts of people reaching retirement each year without secure housing.

In the case of homeless older women there is no strategy from Federal or State Government for responding to their crisis.

No targets have been set, evidence is not being systematically gathered to understand the scale and nature of the problem, and no funds have been allocated to respond to the issue.

As affordable housing gains traction at policy level, these gaps must be addressed.

The author

Susan Ryan AO is the former Age Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission. She was a cabinet minister in the Hawke government and led a number of superannuation bodies.


SUSAN RYAN. Older women need housing too. (Pearls and Irritations)


Co-housing community for older women (Stylus)

SUSAN RYAN. Older women need housing too.