Submission in response to Infrastructure Victoria’s draft 30-year strategy

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Submission in response to Infrastructure Victoria’s draft 30-year strategy

October 26, 2016

The Old Colonists’ Association of Victoria (OCAV) is a leading not-for-profit retirement village provider offering a continuum of care from independent living, assisted living and aged care in Victoria. Our four villages in Berwick, Euroa, North Fitzroy and St Helena are home to 500 older Victorians in need.

The OCAV was established in 1869 by Victorian founding fathers including George Selth Coppin, a Member of Parliament and philanthropist. The association’s first village was located in Rushall Park, North Fitzroy after the Government of Victoria gifted an acreage of land.

Our vision
To be the benchmark provider of affordable, independent community living for elderly Victorians.

Our mission
To advocate and provide affordable, safe and dignified independent homes for older Victorians within a village environment and to offer appropriate and practicable extended care when it is required.

Our values
Safe, Responsible, Dignified, Affordable, Open, Improving

Our funding model: we support capital investment in affordable housing through contributions from those with financial resources and at the same time provide safe and dignified housing for those with very limited or no financial means.

Executive Summary
The OCAV is pleased to make a submission to this important draft 30 year strategy by Infrastructure Victoria (IV).

As a leading retirement village and aged care provider in Victoria, we work to provide affordable and safe housing for elderly Victorians in need, whether they live independently, or in supported or aged care living. Many of our residents have lived within OCAV villages for ten years and longer, maintaining relationships with friends and families.

Our services – both affordable housing and support for older Victorians – are in high demand. We currently have a waiting list of 900 across our four villages and we are seeking sites for additional villages to cater for this demand.

The IV draft strategy recognizes that most, but not all, of the demand for affordable housing is concentrated around Melbourne.  However, the cost of land is clearly a major hurdle for expansion of village numbers by groups like OCAV, endeavouring to assist elderly Victorians in need.

We welcome the IV strategy and its direction. The 30-year strategy has called for a major investment in affordable and social housing, with at least 30,000 new affordable homes to be built within the next decade. The IV strategy also urges government to develop “a comprehensive plan for providing access to affordable housing, either through subsidies or increasing supply”.

We are particularly pleased the draft strategy has acknowledged the need to plan and provide for an increasingly ageing population. Despite Federal government policy to encourage people to ‘age in place’, meaning at home, the OCAV is very aware that many elderly Victorians either do not own or cannot afford a home in which to age, , or are living in unsafe public housing. Around 20 percent of our residents would be homeless if it were not for our existence.

Housing is a basic human right and one that the IV strategy recognises.  We believe OCAV is a suitable partner to facilitate and leverage delivery of new affordable housing through the mechanisms suggested in the IV strategy.

Specific points:
Older people and housing

Australia’s housing stock does not meet the demands of older Australians, according to a report by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC). Notably it found:

·       A growing mismatch between housing stock and demand

Among those aged 55 years or over who had not downsized, more than 80% said they would certainly do so in the future. However, around 40% of those who had not downsized felt there were not enough suitable or affordable housing options in the areas where they would choose to downsize.

·       Perceived barriers to downsizing

The report identified a mismatch between demand and existing housing stock that is likely to get worse, with the proportion of older and lone-person households set to increase significantly over the next 20 years.

Most of Australia’s dwelling stock is made up of separate houses with at least three bedrooms. Small dwellings with one or two bedrooms are still relatively scarce.

According to the 2011 Census, three-quarters of the nation’s dwelling stock is made up of separate houses, compared to just 14% flats, units or apartments.

Census data shows that in Melbourne, only 15% of the housing stock are flats, units and apartments. Semi-detached, row or terraced houses provide smaller alternatives to the detached house. This lack of housing diversity compels older Australians to continue living in larger dwellings than they would prefer, and often for longer than they would prefer.

OCAV’s view: 

Affordable housing

The lack of affordable housing is a problem for older Victorians in need who are homeless, on a pension or have been low-income earners for most of their working life.

The recommendation for an additional 30,000 new affordable properties for low income earners is welcomed and this level of investment will allow Victoria to provide more effectively for its most vulnerable citizens, including older Victorians.

Victoria’s social and public housing stock per capita is amongst the lowest in the country with 32,000 Victorians currently waiting for public housing and people waiting years to get into public housing.  Further, we note there are 120,000 Victorian households experiencing housing stress that are in receipt of Commonwealth Rent Assistance, of which 50,000 are in the very lowest income bracket.

However, OCAV would like to see either land or a percentage of housing earmarked for affordable retirement housing or villages. We believe that 30,000 new properties is the minimum and would recommend an increase to 60,000.

Older women

Older women are a particularly at-risk group and should be considered directly as part of this strategy.  A report prepared by Monash University identified that over half a million older women are living in long term income poverty.  A complex mix of circumstances act to discriminate against women, including the casualisation of the workforce, breaks in the workforce and hence the superannuation system and family violence.  By age 65 women retire with about a third of the superannuation of their male counterparts.

IV Draft Strategy Recommendations

7.1.1    Rental assistance, public housing

Recommendations to expand rental assistance programs and replacing/ improving current public housing are welcomed.

While public housing is not generally safe or the preferred option for older people, especially single, older women, these recommendations will make a difference to older people who are on wait lists.

7.3.2    Removing planning barriers for affordable housing, aged care and introducing inclusionary zoning

These recommendations are most welcome and we see such strategies providing a high degree of leverage when applied through groups like OCAV, for both Government and private land.  Our focus for development of villages for ageing and needy Victorians is proximity to public transport and services, consistent with the IV strategy.

Despite promises for land owned by the State Government to be made available for social and affordable housing, this has not happened enough in the past.

Measures that simplify or remove planning barriers are critical as we continue to experience delays in delivery of housing for the needy.

7.4.3    Providing the private sector with incentives to invest in property

This again is a welcome step. As part of our plan to create a fifth village, we need the private sector to work alongside us to invest in housing for older people. This is very much in line with the history of OCAV where individuals either donated housing or funds for houses to be built in our North Fitzroy village, Rushall Park.

 

Josephine Katite may be a long way from Kenya, where she was born and lived until 2005 but the experience of looking after her elderly grandparents is very much with her every day in her work at Liscombe House.

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