Homelessness is growing fastest among women, particularly older women. Financial disadvantage faces women throughout their lives and often bites hard as they age. Women earn less than men and retire with almost half as much superannuation. They have limits on their ability to work full-time and spend more time in unpaid, undervalued work caring for children and older parents. They’re also overrepresented in the lowest-paying professions.
A lack of superannuation, a marriage breakup, death of a spouse or poor health results in many women facing housing insecurity and potential homelessness for the first time when they are older. They have often been independent, worked and raised children, but now have limited income.
Women aged over 55 who have some assets often don’t qualify for social housing, but they have limited or no working career ahead of them. Without the financial capacity to buy a home, they’re are locked into the private rental market. They are often forced to watch their savings drop with unaffordable rent and no long-term housing security.
Women’s Property Initiatives (WPI) research has shown that these women have genuine interest in investing their money in a home in order to preserve their capital and have secure housing as they age. WPI’s innovative Older Women’s Housing Program takes a different approach to the supply of affordable homes. It will enable low-income women over 55 with modest assets to secure a suitable home into the future. They will still have to pay rent on a portion of the property, but they will have peace of mind from knowing that the rent is affordable and that their capital investment and their tenancy is secure.
This is a preventative approach and is an alternative to a private rental. It will provide these women with secure housing at an affordable rate and preserve the value of their assets, subject to normal housing price fluctuations. These women will not have to contend with unstable and often highly inappropriate housing. The arrangement will prevent them from becoming homeless and from requiring costlier social housing once their savings are depleted. Their investment will secure a high-quality home into the future for this vulnerable group of women, allowing them to age in place.
A site in Beaconsfield in Melbourne’s outer east has been secured for the pilot of this program and we have several women who are expressing interest in participating. Four architect-designed townhouses will be constructed on the site, which is close to public transport, health services, shopping and community facilities.
Are you interested in learning more about the Beaconsfield project?
Call Sally Martin at WPI 9664 7802.
Written by Jeanette Large, CEO, Women’s Property Initiative.