Housing Crisis: Young People Pushing Older Women Into Homelessness

The housing affordability crisis is plaguing more than Australia's youth.

Older women are Australia's fastest growing group of homeless people and the lack of affordable housing is a major factor in the rapid increase.

The number of homeless women over 55 has increased by a whopping 31 percent since 2011. Other demographics of homeless people have increased by just 14 percent since then.

Older women experiencing homelessness are not generally found sleeping rough or in crisis accommodation. Most are staying with friends, couch surfing or living in boarding houses and hostels.

The demand in both the housing market and private rental market from both first home buyers and older women (among other groups) is leaving older women without a place to live.

Older Woman
Most homeless older women are staying with friends, couch surfing or living in boarding houses and hostels. Photo: Getty Images.

"There's a strong element of that. The housing and rental market is a big monolith and you can make a general statement that the private rental market is incredibly competitive," Ned Cutcher, Senior Policy Officer at Shelter NSW, told 10 daily.

"The real issue is access to affordable housing as many older women are not in the position to find somewhere to buy, or they are not able to access the private rental market because it is so expensive and insecure."

READ MORE: Forget Millennials, This Group Has The Hardest Time Getting A Roof Over Their Heads

Older women in Australia become homeless due to a range of factors including illness, family separation, widowhood, domestic violence and family violence.

The history of the wage gap between men and women also leaves older women without the opportunity to break into the housing or rental markets.

"The critical factor you've got is wage inequality from the outset, that's lower superannuation balance when they reach retirement age plus they may have taken large amount of time off to have and raise children," Cutcher said.

Older Woman
Illness, family separation, widowhood, domestic violence and family violence can lead to older women becoming homeless. Photo: Getty Images.

Newly elected Prime Minister Scott Morrison made an election promise around housing affordability, where first home buyers would need to save up just five percent for a deposit.

However, Cutcher said that while older women experiencing homelessness could benefit from this policy, it doesn't get to the crux of the issue.

READ MORE: PM Drowned Out During Ill-Timed Housing Announcement

"Older women themselves could use this kind of policy, but as the first cause of action we need to be looking at funding social and affordable housing now that is being targeted at bottom income earners," Cutcher said.

The Coalition claims they are already delivering action on affordable housing for older women, providing around $4.5 billion through Commonwealth Rent Assistance to those on low incomes.

Scott Morrison announced millions towards housing in February.Photo: AAP.

But the National Everybody's Home campaign -- which aims for a commitment from the Australian government of 500,000 new social homes -- claims the Coalition's policies are ineffective.

Campaign spokesperson Kate Colvin claims Labor and the Greens had more comprehensive housing plans than the Morrison administration.

READ  MORE: Public Housing Wait List Is 82,500 And Growing By 500 Each Month

“The Government wants to help some home buyers with their deposit, but still give investors $32 billion in tax breaks to outbid them at auction,” campaign spokesperson Kate Colvin said.

“It’s like giving home buyers a pat on the back with one hand and a sucker punch to the head with the other."

The campaign released a 'scorecard' in the days before the election, comparing the housing policies of the Coalition, Labor, the Greens, the United Australia Party and One Nation -- and found the Coalition lacking.

National Everybody’s Home campaign
National election Housing scorecard released by Everybody's Home. Photo: Everybody's Home

Colvin also claimed the government's policy ignores both the 811,00 Australians living in housing stress, as well as the 116,000 who were homeless and in urgent need of social housing on election night.

“These are problems that require more affordable rental supply," she said.

Contact Siobhan at