Contentment and suffering: the impact of Australia's housing policy and tenure on older Australians.
Abstract: Housing policy in Australia historically has focused on facilitating homeownership and creating some buffer for those households that are not homeowners. This paper explores the implications of this policy for older Australians. What is argued is that housing tenure has become a crucial divide and that older Australians who have not had the good fortune to access homeownership or public / community housing and who are dependent on the private rental sector as a result, often find themselves in desperate circumstances. The argument is developed that the failure to put in place a housing policy which would give all citizens the ability to access adequate and affordable housing, has led to a situation where a substantial and increasing number of older Australians have untenable housing costs and minimal disposal income. The article concludes that the present policy initiatives aimed at addressing the housing affordability crisis will have little impact on the situation of older people who are currently in housing stress.

Keywords: Housing policy, housing tenure, older renters
Article Type: Report
Subject: Aged (Homes and haunts)
Aged (Social aspects)
Housing policy (Interpretation and construction)
Housing policy (Social aspects)
Home ownership (Laws, regulations and rules)
Home ownership (Social aspects)
Landlord and tenant (Management)
Author: Morris, Alan
Pub Date: 06/22/2009
Publication: Name: Australian Journal of Social Issues Publisher: Australian Council of Social Service Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Sociology and social work Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Australian Council of Social Service ISSN: 0157-6321
Issue: Date: Summer, 2009 Source Volume: 44 Source Issue: 4
Topic: Event Code: 980 Legal issues & crime; 290 Public affairs; 200 Management dynamics; 930 Government regulation; 940 Government regulation (cont) Advertising Code: 94 Legal/Government Regulation Computer Subject: Government regulation; Company business management
Product: Product Code: 9007000 Housing & Development-Total Govt; 9107120 Housing Programs NAICS Code: 925 Administration of Housing Programs, Urban Planning, and Community Development; 92511 Administration of Housing Programs
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Australia Geographic Code: 8AUST Australia
Accession Number: 222487683
Full Text: Introduction and background

Post World War Two the housing policy of successive Australian governments has focused on facilitating the expansion of homeownership (Kendig & Bridge 2007; Paris 1993). This policy has enabled a large proportion of older Australians to acquire their own homes and in mid-2006, 72.5 per cent of older Australians (65 and over), owned their home (about 90 per cent of owners did not have a mortgage); 7.2 per cent were dependent on the private rental market and only 4.1 per cent were public housing tenants (ABS 2008). Noteworthy, is that the proportion of older Australians in the public housing sector dropped from 5.3 per cent in 1991 to 4.4 per cent in 2001 and to 4.1 per cent in 2006, whereas the proportion in the private rental market went up from 6.2 percent in 1991 to 7.1 percent in 2001 and to 7.2 per cent in 2006 (ABS 2008; AIHW 2007). This trend is set to continue. Jones et al (2007: 39) estimate that the number of older, low-income renters will increase substantially - from 195,000 in 2004 to 419,000 in 2026 and that the bulk will be accommodated in the private rental market if the present policy trends continue. The serious shortage of public housing and the crisis around housing affordability suggest that Jones et al's estimate could be conservative.

The dwindling supply of public housing and the explicit policy of prioritising public housing applicants with complex needs are making it very difficult for older people to access public housing. In New South Wales, older people dependent on the age pension, 'may be approved for housing assistance as an elderly client' only when they turn eighty and if they are Indigenous Australians, when they turn 55 (New South Wales Government 2006). Between 1995 and 2005 the number of public housing dwellings decreased from about 388,000 dwellings to 335,000 (AIHW 2005; McIntosh 1997). The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) calculated that in real terms, using 2000-1 dollars, funding for the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement (CSHA), the fund responsible for providing funds to the States for the provision and maintenance of public housing, dropped from $1643.5 million in 1995-96 to $1229.6 million in 2002-03 (ACOSS 2002). The decline in funding for public housing is directly linked to the shift in the government's housing policy for low-income households. From the late 1980s government policy has increasingly presented the private rental market rather than public housing as the preferred route for low-income households. Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) was meant to make this possible for low-income Australians. In 1984-85, whilst only $234 million was budgeted for CRA, over a billion dollars was allocated to the CSHA whereas in 2006-07, $2.2 billion was set aside for CRA and only $970.6 million for CSHA funding (Australia Government Productivity Commission 1993; Wulff 2000; Biggs et al. 2008).

The cuts in funding for public housing have occurred in the context of a housing affordability crisis (Randolph & Holloway 2002). Australia has one of the most unaffordable housing markets in the world and although income doubled between 1985 and 2004, housing prices increased by 400 per cent. A recent international study found that of the 28 areas surveyed in Australia, 25, this included all the capital cities, were rated 'severely unaffordable' (Cox & Pavletich 2008). Homeowners in 2005-06 needed 7.5 their annual disposal income (after tax), while a decade earlier less than five times was adequate. The affordability crisis is reflected in the substantial drop in the proportion of households that own their home outright, down from around 43 per cent in 1996 to 34.3 per cent in 2006 (Tanton, Nepal & Harding, 2008). The data suggest that in coming decades a smaller proportion of age pensioners will be homeowners and if present policy trends persist, these older non-homeowners will be dependent on the private rental market for their accommodation.

The article has three objectives. It first examines income and housing costs for older Australians (65 plus) and in the process illustrates the enormous importance of housing tenure in determining whether an older person household has adequate financial resources. Secondly, it explores how the present housing and pension policies lessen but do not dispel the basis for enormous hardship for those sections of the older population who have never managed to access or have lost access to homeownership or social housing. In this section in-depth interview material is used to illustrate arguments made. The interviews were conducted between 2005 and October 2008. Interviewees were found through advertisements placed on relevant notice-boards and in seniors' publications. A total of 21 older private renters and sixteen older public housing tenants were interviewed. The third objective is to briefly assess the government's most recent policy initiatives in the area of housing affordability and its implications for older Australians. It is illustrated that these policy changes will have a minimal impact on the situation of older households who at present do not own their home and have not managed to access social housing and are in housing stress. A household is defined as being in housing stress when its income is in the lowest two quintiles and when they require thirty per cent or more of gross household income to meet their housing costs (Yates & Gabriel 2006).

Income, housing tenure and housing costs for older Australians

At present the primary source of income for the majority of older Australians is the government age pension. In June 2006, about 1.9 million or 66 per cent of Australians over the qualifying age were dependent on it for all or part of their income; 61.8 per cent received the full pension and 38.2 per cent a part-pension (AIHW 2007: 47-8). Older Australians receiving the part-pension would have other sources of income and / or assets above the cut-off. In 2004-05, only 12 per cent of retirees aged 45 and over received income from superannuation or annuities (AIHW 2007: 48). Participation in the paid labour force for people aged 65 and over is minimal. In 2003, only 5.4 per cent of women and 11.9 per cent of men aged 65 and over were still in the paid labour force and most were working part-time (AIHW 2007: 25). The end of labour force participation invariably leads to a substantial drop in income. Thus, in 2005-2006, for households in the 55-64 year old cohort, the median gross household income was $989 a week, for 65-74 year-olds it was $472 a week and for 75 years plus it was $421 (AIHW 2007: 43).

The full age pension in September 2008 was $271.40 a week for people living by themselves and $463 a week for couples. A pensioner living by themselves and renting in the private rental market was also entitled to a maximum of $55.10 a week in Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) and couples were entitled to a maximum of $51.90 a fortnight. Also, there are various additional benefits. Table 1 shows the maximum amounts a single pensioner or couple were entitled to in September 2008.

If we use the Melbourne Institute's poverty line then in June 2008 for a single person household, where the person was not working, a person was in poverty if they were earning less than $308.35 a week including housing, and $184 other than housing. For couple households (not working), the respective figures were $436.78 and $300.07 (Melbourne Institute 2008). Thus, if after paying for their accommodation, a single older person had $184 or more left for the week and a couple had $300, they were above the poverty line. The figures indicate that the cost of accommodation may be the vital factor determining if an older person did, or did not live in poverty. Another key factor would be whether the older person was living alone or with a partner. For example, an older person dependent on the age pension for their income, whose rent was $200 a week would have about $150 ($350.63 minus $200) left after paying the rent. This is well below the $184 poverty line after housing. In contrast, a couple dependent on the age pension and paying a weekly rent of $200 would have about $350 ($551.08 minus $200) left, which is above the poverty line as defined by the Melbourne Institute. The increase in the age pension to $336 a week for single pensioners and $506.50 for couples from 1 January 2010 should take some pressure off older private renters.

The issue of when a person or household is in poverty is, of course, complex and highly contested (Saunders 2005). The Westpac ASFA Retirement Standard concluded that in the September quarter in 2008, in order to have a modest lifestyle a single pensioner needed an income of $19,617 a year or $377 a week and a couple required $27,454 annually or $528 a week (Westpac 2008). A modest income would allow a household to purchase necessities but little else. The Westpac figures were calculated on the basis that the household did not have a mortgage and was not renting in the private rental market. If we accept the Westpac analysis, then an older household dependent on the age pension and with moderate housing costs (an older private renter in Sydney would be very fortunate to find accommodation for less than $150 a week), would certainly not have the financial means to pursue a modest lifestyle and would probably be struggling to purchase the most basic items.

There are massive discrepancies among older Australians in regards to the costs of their accommodation. In 2003-04, older households who owned their homes outright spent on average only four per cent of their income on housing while households with a mortgage spent 14 per cent and those in public housing approximately 23 per cent (AIHW 2007: 15). Table 2 shows that the situation of older private renters is very different and many have to devote a considerable part of their income to paying for accommodation. The data suggest that a large proportion of older private renters living by themselves and dependent on the single person age pension and CRA for their income were in a desperate situation.

About 77,000 older private renters or half of the total were in housing stress, they had to use more than 30 per cent of their income for rent, and about 35,000, close to one in four, had to use more than half their income for rent.

Not surprisingly, private renters whose income was less than $350 a month (this income grouping accounted for 34.7 per cent of all older private renters) were in the most vulnerable situation. Thus, four in five were using more than 30 per cent of their income for rent; 53 per cent were using more than half of their income; 29.4 per cent were using more than sixty per cent and 22.8 per cent more than seventy per cent. It is probable that all of the households with an income of less than $350 a week were lone person households dependent solely on the age pension and CRA for their income.

Many households in the next income bracket, $350-$499 a week (17.7 per cent of all older renters), were also in an exceptionally difficult position; 62.8 per cent were having to use more than thirty per cent of their income for rent and 13.4 per cent more than fifty per cent.

It is likely that couple households dependent on the age pension for their income, make up most of the older private renter households in the $500-$649 a week category. The proportion of households in this income category in housing stress, although substantial at 41 per cent, was half that of age pensioners living by themselves (those households with an income of less than $350 a week). Less than one in ten households in the $500-$650 income bracket were using more than half of their income for rent, compared to over half of households earning less then $350.

The preceding discussion and Table 2 illustrate how important housing tenure and household size / marital status are in determining income after paying for accommodation. Older homeowners and public housing tenants dependent on the age pension, after paying accommodation costs invariably would have far more income than their counterparts in the private rental market. Homeowners are also able to draw equity on their home if need be and this can be extremely beneficial in the event of a major expense (COTA 2007). Older couples in private rental, although their situation is often precarious, are usually in a far better financial position than older private renters living by themselves.

Policy around rental housing--implications for older renters

In both the private and public rental sector there is government support and tenure protection. The levels of support and protection, however, vary dramatically and older public housing tenants are in a very different situation to their counterparts in private rental. Even with CRA, the rents of older private renters are in almost all instances far higher than their public housing counterparts as is the proportion of their income they have to use for accommodation. This is especially so in metropolitan areas with tight rental markets. Also, the security of tenure of older public housing tenants is much greater. These issues are elaborated on below.

Commonwealth Rent Assistance and older private renters

CRA is a federal government program and is a non-taxable income-supplement paid directly to private renters who receive income support from government.

There is no doubt that CRA does make an enormous difference to the financial situation of households and that without it a far greater proportion of older Australians renting in the private rental market would be in severe housing stress and be forced to vacate. In March 2007, the Minister for Community Services claimed that CRA helped push the proportion of private renters who would need to spend more than 30 per cent of their income on rent from 65 per cent (if CRA was not provided) to 35 per cent (Australian Government 2007). There are, however, two key inter-related problems with CRA. Firstly, the CRA older renters receive is simply not enough in strong rental markets. This is especially so for older renters who live by themselves and are dependent solely on the single age pension and CRA for their income. As demonstrated in Table 2, even after receiving the maximum benefit, many older private renters are still having to use a very substantial part of their income for rent. Secondly, there is no geographical variation in the way CRA is calculated. A household in a strong rental market such as Sydney's is entitled to the same CRA as a household residing in a regional area with a weak rental market. The maximum CRA payment ($55.10 a week) represents a small proportion of the rent in an adequate apartment in Sydney. In June 2008, the median rent for a one-bedroomed apartment in the Sydney statistical district was $350--in the inner-ring it was $380; in the middle ring it was $330 and in the outer ring it was $220 (New South Wales Government 2008). In the year to June 2008 rents in Sydney rose on average by 13.8 per cent (NSW Government 2008). In September 2008, a person living by themselves in Sydney's outer ring, paying the median rent and dependent solely on the age pension and CRA for their income would have had to use 62.7 per cent of their income to pay for accommodation, in the middle ring, 94.1 per cent, and in the inner ring, they would be paying $30 more in rent than their income.

The implications of the limitations of the CRA policy for older non-homeowners can be dramatic. The following sketches of two older private renters (the names used are pseudonyms) living by themselves, the interviews were conducted in October 2008, are illustrative: Jim (70) had been living in the inner-west in Sydney for forty years with his partner in a home owned by his partner's daughter. After his partner passed away (he had been his partner's full-time carer for the last ten years of her life) he was instructed to vacate the house by the daughter of his deceased partner as 'she wanted to charge a market rent'. Notwithstanding an extensive search, he found it impossible to find affordable accommodation in the private rental market in Sydney and, despite numerous pleas, the Department of Housing was not able to help him. Eventually the stress of the situation triggered a heart attack. Ultimately, he concluded that in order to find affordable accommodation he would have to leave Sydney. The only public housing available to him was in a village of about 500 people in a remote part of New South Wales where the local Council had reserved three units for age pensioners at a rent of $110 a week. He is struggling to come to terms with the probability that he will have to live out his remaining years in this remote village which has few facilities and where he knows no one. Once a week, on a Monday, he is able to catch a bus to the nearest regional centre, fifty miles away.

Jim was prepared to move albeit through force of circumstances and very reluctantly, however, many older renters are not prepared to move away from friends and family. Ros, an older private renter in Sydney's eastern suburbs who was paying $310 a week for her two-bedroomed apartment (her daughter stocked up her fridge as after paying her rent she had no money left to purchase food), was adamant that she was not prepared to move and there was nothing cheaper in the area. She was determined to be close to her daughter and grandchildren. Her grandchildren often came to her apartment and she needed two bedrooms in case a grandchild slept over. She was extremely anxious about her financial situation, was not sleeping and had suicidal thoughts. She was adamant that people in her situation should be able to purchase the euthanasia drug, Nembutal, and 'move on'.

Minimal security of tenure for older private renters

The protection that government provides for older private renters is minimal and they are not viewed as a group that requires special treatment. Landlords and managing agents have the power to dictate the length of the lease and the rent to be paid. In the metropolitan areas it is very unusual to have a lease beyond a year and often the lease will be for only six months. The landlord/ agent can decide to renew the lease if they so desire but there is no obligation. Once the lease is up, the landlord/agent has the power to give the tenant two months notice. The absence of rent control means that once the lease ends, the landlord can increase the rent by as much as the market will bear. The tenant can appeal to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal if they feel the increase is excessive, however, in order for the appeal to succeed, the tenant has to prove that the landlord is not being reasonable. The appeals are rarely successful as invariably tenants are not able to show that the landlord is being unreasonable (personal communication, NSW Tenancy Association).

At present, it is evident that power is concentrated in the hands of the landlord and tenants have little room for maneuver. The lack of rent control and tenure security evokes enormous anxiety for many older private renters (Jones et al. 2007). Once the lease ends there is the ever-present possibility of being forced to move due to an untenable rent increase or the landlord wanting to sell the apartment. Looking for alternative accommodation is often difficult. Besides their lack of financial resources, older renters are more likely to be frail so finding new accommodation and moving becomes a very daunting physical and emotional task. Also, most older private renters do not have their own vehicle and this makes it difficult to inspect places available for rent. In a tight rental market older renters would usually be beaten to an adequate affordable property by a younger person with more resources as renters 'race' to find affordable dwellings. In Sydney the intensity of the search for affordable rental accommodation has led to 'rent rage' between potential tenants (REINSW 2008).

Older public housing tenants

The differences in the rental and tenure situations of older public and private renters are stark. Older public housing tenants know their tenure is secure and that their rent is predictable. In New South Wales the rents of older public housing tenants are set at maximum of 25 per cent of their income. Thus, in September 2008, older public housing tenants were paying about $68 a week for their accommodation. This left them with about $227 a week for other expenses. Interviews with older public housing tenants suggest that although they have to budget carefully and live frugally, many felt that they had an adequate income. This was especially so if they did not smoke. Public housing tenants who were interviewed said that they were able to purchase the items that they needed and were able to save.

Security of tenure for life is virtually guaranteed for older public housing tenants. As long as they are responsible tenants the possibility of losing their tenancy is remote. In New South Wales, prior to the rules changing in October 2006, older tenants were given leases for life. Post October 2006, leases for older public housing tenants are for ten years and renewable thereafter. The predictability of the rent and security of tenure are enormously comforting. Tenants are able to plan for the future and are not beset with constant concerns about the possibility of losing their accommodation. Jack, who at the time of being interviewed in December 2005 had been a public housing tenant for about twenty years, captures this sentiment:

Another important advantage of being a public housing tenant is that maintenance is done by the Department of Housing and thus there is no fear that reporting of maintenance problems will provoke retaliation or be ignored.

Contemporary housing policy initiatives and older people

The coming into power of the Australian Labor Party has led to much activity in housing policy and there is a clear commitment to improving the situation of homeless and marginally housed Australians. An important question is the extent to which the policy initiatives which have been put in place will alleviate the situation of older, marginally housed Australians. Unfortunately, almost all of the policy initiatives are orientated towards 'working households' and not many older households dependent on the age pension for their income are likely to benefit from the policy shifts. There has been no mention of rent control in the private rental market and there has been no shift in the CRA policy in regards to taking account of the maximum amounts paid or the locational differences in the rental market. Although the policy proposals linked to the housing affordability strategy make no mention of older people, the policies dedicated towards fighting homelessness, do have a section on the specificity of older homelessness and the need to create special facilities. The major policy initiatives are briefly outlined as are their implications for older people who are not homeowners.

'First Home Saver Accounts'

The 'First Home Saver Accounts' became available in October 2008 and are orientated towards young couples saving for their first home. The policy provides for the creation of low tax savings accounts for young people who open special accounts geared towards purchasing their first homes (Australian Government 2008a). This policy will certainly help some households achieve homeownership who otherwise may not have. It is evident that older Australians are not expected to participate in this policy initiative.

'The Housing Affordability Fund'

The 'The Housing Affordability Fund' is directed towards increasing the supply of private housing by partially funding the building of infrastructure in newly released areas and giving 'local government incentives to lower development charges'. It is hoped that these initiatives will lower the cost of new homes in these areas. This policy is geared towards households who are in the labour-force. For older people dependent on the age pension this policy initiative is not relevant. They do not have the resources to purchase a home.

The National Rental Affordability Scheme

The 'National Rental Affordability Scheme' has been presented as the key part of the Rudd government's endeavour to increase the supply of affordable rental housing. The scheme involves the federal government providing $622.6 million over four years in order to provide 50,000 'affordable' rental properties across Australia by 2012 and 'if market demand remains strong the Government will deliver a further 50,000 from 2012 onwards' (Australian Government 2008a). The properties are to be rented out at 20 per cent below market value.

Developers will be given an incentive worth $8000 per property per year for ten years. The scheme is clearly orientated towards 'working families' and it is unlikely that this scheme will benefit older Australians who at present are renters. The Council of the Ageing (COTA), in its assessment of the policy, concluded, 'While the goal is admirable, there is a serious risk that, even at that reduced rental threshold, many Australians--and notably older Australians, particularly age pensioners--will still not be able to afford the rent' (COTA 2008).

Land Release

Another component of the affordable housing policy is land release--the freeing up of Commonwealth owned land 'for housing development or community infrastructure'. Government owned land would be sensible spaces on which to build public housing, there is, however, no indication how much of this land will be used to build affordable housing.

Policy initiative for fighting homelessness

The white paper, The Road Home, released at the end of 2008, commits $1.2 billion dollars to fight homessness (Australian Government 2008b). Special mention is made of the needs of the older homeless and specialist aged-care facilities for older people who have had a history of homelessness will be established. This is clearly a good start but will have little impact on the lives of older marginally housed households, most notably older private renters. Very few will be able to access this housing as it is orientated towards accommodating individuals/households that have had a history of homelessness.

About $800 million dollars will be spent on providing services to prevent homelessness. In cases where an older person household is in danger of losing access to their accommodation, the new policy initiatives expand the possibilities for these households. There will be more emergency housing and a greater number of service providers to turn to for assistance and this could certainly benefit older households who have exhausted all possibilities. It is possible that these service providers will be able to use their resources to ultimately settle these households in affordable housing.

Increased commitment to public housing

In the 2009-10 budget the government set aside $6.8billion for the construction of 20,000 new social housing dwellings and the repair of another 45,000; 'people who have been homeless and people on low incomes struggling in the private rental market will be a priority' (Australian Government 2009). This is an important initiative and indicates a shift in government thinking--social housing is back in favour. There is, however, no mention of older Australians being prioritised and the 20,000 social housing dwellings planned represent about 11 per cent of the 178,000 households that were on the waiting list for public housing in June 2008 (AIHW 2009). Thus, it is unclear the degree to which this initiative will facilitate the ability of older private renters to move into social housing.

Conclusion

The data indicate that for those older Australians who have not managed to access homeownership or public / community housing, or alternatively have not managed to retain their home due to events such as divorce, business failure or ill-health, the policy of focusing mainly on facilitating home-ownership, has had serious implications. Older Australians who find themselves in the private rental market because there is no other option, are battling to sustain themselves and retain their tenancy. Their rent often consumes a large part of their income and their security of tenure, once their lease ends, is negligible. If they are renting in a metropolitan area and living by themselves, it is very likely that they will find themselves in serious housing and financial stress. In addition to having to devote a large part of their income to paying the rent, older private renters often are forced to accept accommodation which is not appropriate and which they are loathe to ask the agent / landlord to modify because they are fearful it may sour the relationship (Izuhara & Heywood 2003; Kendig & Bridge 2007).

Research has indicated that for older people the ability to age in place is often central for active and healthy ageing (Olsberg et al. 2005; Steinfeld & Shea 1995). For older private renters ageing in place is usually not possible (Judd et al. 2004).

Public housing due to the low rents, the predictability of the cost of accommodation, and the considerable security of tenure, gives people dependent on the age pension the capability 'to lead the kind of lives they value ...' and to age in place (Sen 1999: 18). The decline in the absolute number of public housing dwellings has meant that older people, especially those who are under eighty, independent and healthy, are finding it increasingly difficult to access acceptable public housing (Judd et al 2004). Income and age are no longer key criteria for accessing public housing; in New South Wales an individual now has to have low income, complex needs and be 'in need of support services to help them live independently' (New South Wales Government 2008).

Although, at present, older private renters constitute a small proportion of all older person households, as mentioned, this housing tenure is bound to grow substantially if the current policy trends continue. Most of these households will be sole person households. Jones et al (2007) estimate that the number of sole person households in rental housing will increase from 110,800 (2001 figure) to 243,600 in 2026 and that two thirds of these households will be constituted by women living by themselves. This is significant as private renters who live by themselves are in a far more vulnerable position than couples.

The data indicate that it is imperative that housing policy is recast so that older non-homeowners either have enough income to afford to live in private rental accommodation or that housing availability in the public or community housing sector is expanded so that an older non-homeowner is able to access this housing tenure if they so desire. The recent policy initiatives that have been put in place are certainly a step forward, but, as has been shown, will have little impact on the current situation of older private renters.

We need to ask ourselves what kind of cities we want. Do we want cities where a substantial section of the older population are marginalised and probably have reduced life expectancy due to their failure or inability to purchase private property in their life-time or access social housing, or do we want just cities where all citizens are protected and can live a decent life throughout their lifespan? If the answer is the latter, then the federal and state governments have to start putting the emphasis on developing a housing policy which gives all citizens, young and old, rich and poor, the ability to access decent, affordable housing.

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There is a certain feeling of security when you've got the
   Department of Housing [as a landlord] ... [Private] landlords can
   always put up their rent and I found that the government is the
   best landlord that I've ever had. They're very responsive. They
   leave you alone and as long as you pay the rent, they don't
   interfere ... I do feel that there is a terrific lot of security
   here. It makes for a far more peaceful life, especially when you
   get older. When people get older, as you know, they sort of become
   easily stressed and the accommodation is probably at the top of the
   list where you live and so on ... When you know your accommodation
   is right, this is especially when you're older, you can pursue
   other interests. You're more relaxed and I do feel, I really feel,
   you're in for a longer life you know. [It's a] ... nerve-wrecking
   thing, especially if ... you don't own your own home and especially
   if you're in the rental market when you get older. It's a very
   dodgy situation.


Table 1: Total weekly income of age pensioners September 2008

                                Single person    Couple
                                household        household--income
                                                 per couple

Pension (maximum)               $271.40          $463
Pension supplement              $9.65            $18.80
Utilities allowance             $9.88            $9.88
Telephone allowance             $1.70            $1.70
Pharmaceutical allowance        $2.90            $5.80
Total weekly income             $295.53          $499.18
Total annual income             $15,367          $25,957
CRA (maximum amount)            $55.10           $51.90
Total weekly income with CRA    $350.63          $551.08
Total annual income with CRA    $18,233          $28,656

Table 2: Proportion of older private renters in Australia
in mid-2006 who were  paying more than 30%, 50%, 60% or 70%
of the household income on rent (N = 154,543)

Income                                 Proportion    Proportion
                                       paying more   paying more
                                       than 30%      than 50 %

+Less than $350 pw (N = 53634)         *80.1         53.0
Between $350 and $499 pw (N = 27377)   62.8          13.4
Between $500 and $649 pw (N = 27077)   41.3          8.9
Between $650 and $799 pw (N = 7903)    30.1          5.4
Between $800 and $999 pw (N = 8628)    18.4          2.5
$1000 and above (N = 29,924)           6.8           1.1
Total                                  50.1          22.9

Income                                 Proportion    Proportion
                                       paying more   paying more
                                       than 60 %     than 70 %

+Less than $350 pw (N = 53634)         29.4          22.8
Between $350 and $499 pw (N = 27377)   5.2           5.2
Between $500 and $649 pw (N = 27077)   3.4           1.5
Between $650 and $799 pw (N = 7903)    1.9           1.2
Between $800 and $999 pw (N = 8628)    1.2           1.2
$1000 and above (N = 29,924)           0.7           0.7
Total                                  12.2          9.4

+ Results derived from several collapsed income ranges.
As such the product of N and proportion reported in each cell
may vary from N for the entire income range.

Source: ABS (2008). Unpublished 2006 census data.

Note: Census data are provided for 15 income and 10 rent
ranges. The calculations here assume that income and rent
are located at the midpoints of these ranges. Participants
who reported a zero or negative income, did not respond or
reported a partial income were not included.
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