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Research reveals older Australians’ hopes for housing

Future government policy on housing is set to be shaped by a new study which reveals most older Australians want to live in the middle or outer suburbs of a city in detached, freestanding three-bedroom homes.

The research, Older Australians and the housing aspirations gap, undertaken for AHURI by researchers from Curtin University and Swinburne University of Technology, explores the housing aspirations of older Australians (over 55s) in order to support government policy making that will deliver the housing and housing assistance required to meet their diverse aspirations.

According to the report, the middle or outer suburbs of a city are the locations older Australians most want to live, an aspiration which increases with age.

There is a strong desire to live in small regional towns for those aged between 55 and 74 years, while over-75s are more likely to prefer the inner suburbs of a capital city. Few older Australians want to live in the CBD of a capital city.

The research reveals that more than two-thirds of older Australians want to live in a detached freestanding home, with the remaining third preferring an attached dwelling or apartment.

Around 50 per cent of older Australians want to live in a home with three bedrooms, while just 20 per cent wanted four or more. The preference for large dwellings dropped sharply with age.

Lead author of the report, Dr Amity James from Curtin University said this showed that the housing industry needs to recognise this great demand from older Australians for two and three-bedroom dwellings located in high level amenity locations.

“While apartments are an important product for around 13 per cent of older Australians, smaller attached houses also offer a solution,” Dr James said.

“Regional areas also need a greater diversity of dwelling product to offer older Australians more housing choice.

Dr James said the research indicated that while small regional towns were popular among older Australians, there needed to be a range of dwellings available in these locations to meet demand.

“Regardless of location, the delivery of housing which meets these aspirations will require a joint approach between developers and planners,” she said.

“Aspirations are underpinned by a desire for long-term stable housing which offers safety and security into later life.

“Around 80 per cent of older Australians surveyed reported a preference for home ownership – this is a cause for concern given homes ownership rates are falling fast within younger generations.”

The research found that the housing “aspirations gap” was highest among renters in the private and social housing sectors.

Such households face barriers of discrimination, limited housing options and, for those in the private rental sector, insecurity.

Report co-author Associate Professor Steven Rowley said we needed to find ways to assist older Australians to sustain home ownership and develop alternative tenure options.

“Specific retirement living products have an important role to play along with a reformed private rental sector,” Associate Professor Rowley said.

He believed there were opportunities for policy makers to bridge these gaps through targeted housing assistance for vulnerable home owners and by creating greater tenure security for older private renters.

“Increasing housing diversity to offer more choice allowing older households to reduce the size of their dwelling and developing a central housing information service to advise older Australians of their housing options are interventions that will assist older Australians to meet their housing aspirations,” Associate Professor Rowley concluded.

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