Provider peak body Aged and Community Services Australia is calling on the Federal Government to target housing for older Australians as part of its housing-led  recovery plan.

The Federal Government announced a $680 million HomeBuilder package on 4 June to provide eligible owner-occupiers with a $25,000 grant to substantially renovate an existing home or build a new home to help keep builders employed.

ACSA said the government should establish a Seniors Accommodation Fund to target the economic stimulus at older Australians, including those who are at risk of homelessness.

The Seniors Accommodation Fund should:

  • support pilot projects for new and innovative senior accommodation
  • scale and commercialise existing accommodation types
  • identify key geographic areas or other cohorts that are experiencing vulnerability and seek grant applications to meet their needs
  • ensure money dispersed via the fund is spent in a cost-effective way through a competitive and transparent grant process.

ACSA CEO Patricia Sparrow said Australia’s economic recovery from COVID-19 required targeted stimulus spending from the government.

Patricia Sparrow

“A Seniors Accommodation Fund would create opportunities for the construction of innovative, flexible and affordable accommodation options as well as upgrading existing accommodation for older Australians as part of the COVID-19 economic stimulus response,” Ms Sparrow told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Aged care organisations are major housing providers for older Australians across the country, she said.

“Housing is a major issue and there are older Australians that are falling through the cracks and at risk of homelessness,”Ms Sparrow said.

“Creating employment for many and better accommodation for older Australians would be a great outcome all round,” she said.

Housing advocacy group Housing for the Aged Action Group said it supported ACSA’s call to establish an accommodation fund for seniors.

HAAG executive officer Fiona York said people aged over 65 were the fastest growing cohort facing homelessness.

“There are large numbers of older people who are struggling in expensive private rental, paying most of their income on rent,” Ms York told AAA.

Fiona York

“We need a range of affordable housing options for older people, and that requires urgent on-going investment into public and community housing and low-cost retirement housing.”

Housing is the fundamental element keeping people safe during COVID-19, Ms York said.

“This pandemic has clearly shown the importance of housing for health, to allow physical distancing and quarantining, especially for older people, who are most vulnerable to the virus,” she said.

“It is difficult to self-isolate if you have no home, are couch surfing or living in overcrowded housing.”

Investment in housing should be part of regular government budgeting, rather than a one-off response to a crisis, Ms York said.

“However, if there is to be spending on housing as part of economic stimulus packages, then building more social housing is the most appropriate use of tax payers dollars, not renovations for people who already own their own homes,” she said.

*This story first appeared in Australian Ageing Agenda.

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