Older West Australians overburdened by rent

Photo: Dmitriy Shironosov
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MORE than one in five renters aged 55 and above in Western Australia are spending at least 60% of the income towards rent, according to a new research by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre.

Author of the Older renters in the Western Australian private rental sector: Strategies to enhance housing security for WA’s older renters report, associate professor Helen Hodgson, from the Curtin Law School, said it was important for older Australians to have the security to be able to age in place, particularly if the alternative was premature admission into an aged care facility.

“Our research found many older renters have only been in their current home for up to three years with 41% of older Australian renters forced to leave their previous rental property due to factors beyond their control.”

Released in conjunction with The private rental sector in Australia: Public perceptions of quality and affordability report, it also found low-income and older renters are experiences uncertainty over their leases and affordability pressures.

“Due to landlord resistance and the cost of restoring the property to its former condition at the end of the lease, older renters are often prevented from installing age-friendly modifications or keeping a pet or reluctant to assert their rights due to concerns about retaliation.

“Tenants should have enhanced rights to request modifications to a property to provide them the security to age in place, as the alternative may be premature admission into the aged care system,” Hodgson said.

Almost half of all renters are paying more than 30% of their income on rent, according to the combined research. That figure rises to 63% for older respondents, and 21% pay 60% or more.

Hodgson said there is a shortage of affordable housing available for older renters and many older renters are only able to find accommodation in the private rental market, increasing the incidence of housing stress.

“The gap between market and affordable rents for recipients of pensions and allowances could be addressed with increased subsidies payable, either to the renter or the owner of properties in the private rental market.”

Hodgson suggested subsidies to tenants should be through increased levels of CRA, which should be urgently revised and indexed to local markets on an ongoing basis.

“A similar scheme to the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS), which was developed to build new accommodation, should be designed to improve the standard of existing rental stock through additional capital allowances on appropriate refurbishment, or land tax concessions.

“Although the existing legal frameworks seek to balance traditional inequalities between landlords and tenants, lease terms remain short and relatively easy to terminate.

“Legislative solutions to concerns around insecure tenure include introducing longer leases coupled with the elimination of ‘no-grounds’ termination of leases.”

Australian Property Journal