Women, especially mid aged and older women, are the largely hidden victims of Australia’s affordable housing crisis according to Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL).
WEL presented evidence before the NSW upper house Affordable Housing Inquiry on Monday 12 May that the crisis in housing affordability has specific impacts on women.
WEL Executive Member Mary O’Sullivan said both WEL and the Older Women’s Network (OWN) were concerned about the potential impact the NSW Government’s tendering out of homelessness services would have on women’s refuges.
“Very few of the 274 submissions to the Inquiry recognise that women fleeing domestic violence, single, mid-aged and older women suffer most from lack of affordable housing.
“Women earn less, are more likely to be underemployed, work part-time, be unable to participate in the labor market due to caring duties and have less accumulated wealth over the life course than their male counterparts. 1
“We are worried about a potential roll back of the services designed to support these women.”
Ms O’Sullivan said currently, the majority of older women in their 60s and over are in owner occupied dwellings, with those most financially vulnerable in the private rental market.
“This will change in the near future. Recent research by OWN indicates the most dramatic decline in home ownership nationally is in the forthcoming generation of retirees in the 45 to 59 age bracket, with the home ownership rate amongst this group declining from 54.4% in 1995-96 to 35.8% in 2005-6.2
“We also know that as a single parent, recently divorced or exiting an abusive relationship and living alone in the private rental market you are most vulnerable to housing stress, especially as you get older. Scarily ‘older’ in this context is coming to mean 45 and over.”
Ms O’Sullivan said the NSW Government’s own research shows women’s access to affordable housing is going to get worse without long term planning which incorporates older and single women’s needs.
“Our Governments must wake up to the fact that not only is the housing affordability crisis a crisis of supply and a personal crisis for many low and middle income people; it’s also a crisis for women.
“It needs a planning and policy response which factors in their needs together with the needs of men, children and the diverse communities across our state.”
1 Cover letter to WELNSW Submission to NSW Parliamentary Inquiry. See also Women in NSW 2013 ‘Work and Financial Security’:93 and Fig 4.8 and table 4.11on page121 www.women.nsw.gov.au/publications/women_in_nsw_reports
2 McFerran, L It could be you:10