A new affordable homes development in Ivanhoe, Melbourne will give older people and people with disability on low incomes desperately needed homes for life.
As Australia’s housing crisis grows, Catholic for-purpose organisation Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH) is stepping up to help meet the huge demand for secure and affordable homes, particularly for older people who struggle in the private rental market and want to age in place.
Trinity Lane by VMCH, to be officially launched on Friday 31 March, includes 39 accessible and modern apartments for people aged over 55 who are on a low income, and people with disability.
VMCH offers affordable homes to 436 people in 21 communities across Victoria, but this is the first time the organisation has purpose-built an affordable homes development for intergenerational use.
“We’ve all witnessed the terrible reports on Australia’s housing crisis,” says VMCH Board Chairman Julien O’Connell AO. “Rents, interest rates and the cost of living continue to rise, and there’s simply not enough affordable housing stock to keep up with demand.
“Things are worse for the more marginalised and vulnerable in our community, and it’s simply not good enough that older people who have given so much to our society and deserve to live in comfort, are struggling to put a roof over their heads.”
Anglicare Australia reports that just 0.5% of rentals are affordable and suitable for a retiree on the Age Pension. And that 87% of renters surveyed say they want to remain at home as they get older, but only 46% believe their home is suitable for an older person. Anglicare Australia notes that an inability to modify the home can push people prematurely into residential aged care.
Likewise, studies show accessibility is a huge barrier for people with disability to live comfortably in a private rental.
“These statistics make Trinity Lane even more important, with 31 of the 39 units deemed ‘Gold Standard’ accessible under Livable Housing Australia’s (LHA) design guidelines,” Mr O’Connell says. “Features like easy entries and exits, navigation, and functionality in and around the apartments mean we will also be able to welcome people with disability who need a safe, secure and affordable home. The intergenerational aspect is also unique, and we’re excited to see some genuine relationships form between older residents and their younger neighbours.”
Helen is one of Trinity Lane’s new residents, moving from VMCH’s outdated affordable homes site on nearby Lower Heidelberg Road. She’s also among Australia’s fastest growing cohort of people experiencing homelessness, women aged over 55.
The Retirement Living Council reports “the largest proportion of older women facing homelessness in Australia have led conventional lives … they’ve been employed, had stable homes and families. (Homelessness) is forced upon them after critical life events, like a relationship breakdown, financial troubles, or the onset of illness.” They describe these women as “the missing middle”.
Despite an affluent start to her married life, 40 years ago Helen found herself divorced and homeless following a string of bad business decisions made by her ex-husband. Decades of instability and financial strain followed, until she found VMCH in recent years.
“The opportunity that Villa Maria Catholic Homes has given me to move into this beautiful place is extraordinary,” Helen says. “When I first saw this place, I was overwhelmed, it’s such a beautiful building. As soon as I got here, I thought ‘How lucky are we?’ I mean, I lost everything, and now I’m here, I feel so fortunate.”
Helen says easy accessibility to her ground floor apartment will help with her mobility issues.
“It means I won’t have to move out of this place in the future. I can be here for the rest of my life. As far as I’m concerned, this is my final home. “
Mr O’Connell said VMCH’s vision to help ease the housing struggle for those who need it most, like Helen, continues with an “absolute commitment” to invest in more affordable homes projects into the future.
“We want our residents to feel secure, safe and comforted by the fact that their tenancy here is forever, if they choose. These homes are not temporary rentals; they’re homes for life.”
Trinity Lane will host an official launch and blessing event on Friday 31 March from 10.30am with Archbishop Comensoli and the State Member for Ivanhoe, Anthony Carbines, in attendance.