21 October 2019
Western Australia has proven it is arguably Australia’s most innovative State when its comes to tackling seniors housing issues after releasing a strategy committing to trialling new property ownership and rental models for older people.
On 16 October, the WA Government released its long-awaited Ageing with Choice strategy.
The strategy says the government needs to take a range of actions to increase the supply of seniors housing, particularly for those entering retirement with limited or no superannuation savings.
This follows research by WA’s Department of Communities which found that a single aged pensioner can expect to borrow a maximum of $49,800 to buy a home, which the government found “barely covers the transaction costs of moving to a more suitable home.”
The strategy also finds there is a critical lack of housing ownership options for seniors with assets between $100-200,000, which meant these people were being forced into the rental market.
The strategy commits the WA Government to trial the uptake of shared and other co-ownership models targeted to older people with limited income and assets in State Government developments.
Shared ownership models, where a property is partly-owned by an older person and the rest owned by a government body, charity or company, remains a vastly under-utilised seniors housing model in Australia.
The United Kingdom, in contrast, has implemented the Older People Shared Ownership program, which allows people aged over 55 to own 75 per cent of a dwelling, and not pay rent on the other 25 per cent.
The model has the potential to significantly reduce property purchase prices and is being trialled by the WA Government in the State’s south-west.
The WA strategy also supports the government progressing affordable leasehold models on government land targeted to older people.
The government has also committed to reviewing the Residential Tenancies Act 1987, including in relation to tenants’ security of tenure and notice periods, and approvals for home modifications. The government will also investigate long-term tenant leasing options.
The strategy, however, is disappointing in that it doesn’t propose a stamp duty discount for downsizers, despite the fact this had been flagged as a possibility in an earlier government discussion paper.
Seniors and Ageing Minister Mick Murray said: "WA has an ageing population and the number of people aged 65 or more is projected to grow by 40 per cent to more than 500,000 by 2026.”
"Research has shown that people's housing needs change with age. With more people living longer, many will require a greater level of care and support.
"While housing affordability affects everyone, older people can be especially affected due to their reduced earning and borrowing capacity and their specific housing needs.
"Ageing with Choice recognises that everyone ages differently and that housing needs are driven by changes in health, financial or family circumstances."
By Mark Skelsey, Editor of Downsizing.com.au