Retirement villages hold a key to providing affordable housing in Victoria

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Retirement villages hold a key to providing affordable housing in Victoria

June 11, 2021

OCAV has called on the Victorian government to reinvest in the independent living retirement village sector and to make it easier for not-for-profit providers with a successful housing track record to become community housing providers.

The call was made in our submission to the Victorian government’s ten-year social and affordable housing strategy for Victoria.

OCAV also called out the government for barely mentioning the housing needs of older people in the consultation paper, this is despite the paper listing the elderly as one of four areas under ‘changing profile of need.’

“In our view, the Government must produce more housing that is suitable for and available to older people at risk of homelessness, and especially older women,” Phillip Wohlers, CEO of OCAV, said.

“It is time for affordable housing to be treated as essential infrastructure and not a nice-to-have policy. The pandemic has exposed the cracks in the housing system and highlighted the critical link between safe, secure and affordable housing and good health and wellbeing, particularly in older age.”

From OCAV’s perspective, little advance can be made in Victoria unless the Federal Government legislates for affordable housing.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Australia is a signatory, recognises the right to adequate housing in Article 11. However, at a domestic level, Australia currently does not legally recognise housing as a human right. Both France and Scotland have codified the right to adequate housing, while UK legislation places a responsibility on local government to provide housing for those in need.

 

Mr Wohlers also pointed to the tax system that incentivises multiple home ownership as a financial asset and drives up its price. The assumption built into the Australian retirement housing system is that on retirement, people own their own home. This is absolutely not the case for all older people, and for women, it is even less likely,” Mr Wohlers said.

“There is a significant gap in wealth and asset accumulation between men and women. Pension payments do not cover basic living expenses particularly for those in the private rental market.”

Looking to immediate solutions, OCAV believes that the government could make far better use of retirement living providers who now provide affordable housing to older Victoria and who could do much more.

“We can scale up with the appropriate investment at the right time. We need the government to change affordable housing eligibility and registered housing provider requirements to allow organisations such as ours to play a more active part,” Mr Wohlers said.

“The potential is there, just open the door and talk with us.”

 

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