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Better housing

Our better housing campaign will work to improve housing options for you and other older Australians.

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Read our Downsizing: Movers, planners, stayers report.

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About the issue

National Seniors better housing campaign will work to improve housing options for you and other older Australians.

A key focus of the campaign is on improving options to enable you to downsize should you need to.

Downsizing is not necessarily about having a smaller home but about finding a home that is more suited to your needs.

As you get older, you may need a new home that:

  • is easier to take care of
  • is closer to your family or services
  • provides access to different lifestyle options, or
  • is simply safer or easier.

Unfortunately, there are many barriers to downsizing.

If you sell your home and move into another, any money you make will be counted as part of the Age Pension means test. This might put you off moving to a home that suits you better.

Stamp duty can also be a big issue when buying your new home. National Seniors has fought hard for stamp duty concessions over the years. Stamp duty concessions for seniors are currently available in the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Northern Territory and now Tasmania. But not in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales.

Most new housing is not being built to a standard that makes it suitable for you when you get older. Less than five per cent of all new housing is being built to a minimum standard of accessibility.

Planning laws don’t encourage new housing options that might help you as you get older. Your choice is often limited to large detached housing or high-rise apartments.

If better housing is an issue important to you, sign up to the campaign below to get regular updates.

You can also help by becoming a National Seniors member. 

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Campaign priorities

Priority 1: Exempt up to $250,000 of excess home sale proceeds from the Age Pension means test to encourage downsizing

You might be like many other older Australians who have much of your wealth locked up in the family home.

You might want to live in a more suitable home or use this wealth to generate income or pay for health and aged care services.

Supporting you and other older Australians to downsize can bring about a better retirement.

Benefits of supporting pensioners to downsize

A lot of people want to stay in their homes as they get older, but sometimes may need a more suitable home.

It might be because a big backyard is hard to look after.

A lot of older people live in homes that have become dangerous, for example it can be difficult climbing with stairs after you’ve had a stroke.

It’s easy to see how someone could risk of injury and hospitalisation or even early entry into aged care if they didn’t live in the right home.

Pensioners particularly struggle with the cost of retrofitting their homes to make the safer and more age friendly.

In many cases they would be better off in a new home that suits their needs.

The Age Pension means test is the problem.

The Age Pension Means Test discourages downsizing

Most pensioners are worried that is they downsize it will cut the size of the pension.

Research from National Seniors has shown that about third of people over 50 had already downsized. And another third plan to do so1.

What is interesting is the same research showed that almost 1 in 5 older Australians who don’t want to downsize would consider doing so if the extra money did not affect their pension.2

While a new policy allows a retiree to put up to $300,000 from the sale of their home into superannuation tax free, this will not be attractive if they lose their pension.

How would an Age Pension Means Test exemption work?

In the 2013-14 Budget, the Federal Government announced the Housing Help for Seniors pilot scheme3. This scheme was designed to provide retirees with an opportunity to downsize their family home while minimising the impact on the Age Pension.

Under the pilot, if you were a pensioner you could have put up to $200,000 from the sale of your home into a special account without it affecting your pension. The money would continue to be exempt for up to 10 years, or until a withdrawal was made from the account. The pilot also required the pensioner to have lived in the home for 25 years.

While National Seniors welcomed the pilot, we thought it had too many restrictions. Even so, we were disappointed the pilot was dropped in the 2014-15 Budget under a new government.

Our proposal doesn’t have the disadvantages of the pilot scheme. Its less restrictive and the maximum exemption would be $250,000.

It would mean:

1. older Australians could downsize to more appropriate housing

2. families would have more options for homes that suit their needs

3. money tied up in bricks and mortar would be freed up

4. the housing industry and whole economy would be stimulated.

How can you help?

If you want to support our efforts to exempt downsizing proceeds from the pension means test, sign up to the campaign to get regular updates. 

You can also help by becoming a National Seniors member.


Rees, K. and McCallum, J. 2017. Downsizing: Movers, planners, stayers. Brisbane: National Seniors.

Home sweet home

Older people should not be forced to downsize if they don’t want to.

For many older Australians, their home is their biggest asset.

In 2017, a National Seniors Australia and Challenger research report found 84 per cent of retirees owned their own home. But a third of retirees only had assets (outside their home) of less than $200,000.

The family home is more than just a store of wealth. It connects older people with family, friends and community. It contributes to health and wellbeing.

For these reasons, we opposed to including the family home in the pension means test.

Read the report here

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