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Research explores the stress of unaffordable housing market on older renters

Research explores the stress of unaffordable housing market on older renters

Dr Emma Power. Credit: Western Sydney University

Research by an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) recipient, Dr Emma Power, has found that older women are struggling in an insecure and unaffordable rental housing market. A combination of high housing costs and low incomes leaves many living in substandard housing and unable to afford necessities like food and energy bills.

The research was conducted in three stages: a policy review of age-connected housing strategy in Australia; interviews with stakeholders in the ageing and housing sectors; and in-depth interviews recording the housing biographies and experiences of older women living across diverse housing contexts including private and social rental, shared housing, transitional and emergency housing, and homelessness.

Dr Emma Power, based at Western Sydney University’s School of Social Sciences and Institute for Culture and Society, says that older women’s experiences are a warning of the risks the current housing crisis poses to Australia's growing group of older renters.

‘Single older women, aged 55 and over, are overrepresented amongst the asset poor in Australia. They are also one of the fastest growing groups of homeless people nationally,’ says Dr Power.

‘Many of the women in my research lived in degraded and low-quality housing or paid high housing costs which stretched their budgets, leaving them unable to buy nutritious food and manage utility bills.’

Dr Power says that while affordability and security are concerns for all renters, they are especially vital for older renters on low, fixed incomes facing uncertain futures in the private rental market. The number of older Australians who rent is also projected to increase over the next decade.

Dr Power’s research findings present women’s experiences of housing insecurity and calls for urgent action to address rental affordability and security on a national scale. The report outlines five policy recommendations made with the intention of enabling single older women to achieve a reasonable standard of life, with basic housing and income security.


A failure to ensure secure housing for all brings risk to the community as a whole,’ says Dr Power.


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