Victims of a Flawed Housing Policy: Older Private Renters Battling to Survive in Sydney

City Futures Research Centre, UNSW
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Refereed Procedings from 2009 Housing Researchers Conference, 2010, pp. 1 - 14
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This paper argues that housing policy in Australia over the last couple of decades has contributed towards a situation where an ever-increasing number of low-income older Australians who are not homeowners have to rely on the relatively expensive private rental market rather than on social or public housing for their accommodation. The key interrelated features of this policy trajectory have been a freeze on the building of public housing, restricting access to public housing to people with complex needs (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 an expectation that Commonwealth Rent Assistance will enable low-income households to access affordable and adequate accommodation in the private rental market. Although there have been shifts in housing policy since November 2007, the situation of older private renters remains dire. In the first section of the paper, the policy trajectory is outlined. The second part of the paper, drawing on 21 in-depth interviews with older private renters examines the hardship experienced by older private renters. Many of the interviewees were in serious financial and emotional stress due to them having to set aside a large proportion of their income for rent. Their minimal security of tenure was also a constant concern.
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