Older renters doing it tough – what’s the answer?

“We’re running out of savings and super to support rent.” That’s what some of our members doing it tough are telling us.

It’s not good enough that people cannot find a home in a market that seems to always get more and more expensive.

Also, a recent report raises concerns about increasing homelessness among over-65s. 

The ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Research at UNSW found Australia has the highest rate of seniors rental poverty in the OECD.

So, what support is available for older Australians who rent rather than own their own homes?

One thing is for sure some of our members are struggling to afford renting in the private market. Doing so means using up their savings and super funds and that’s causing housing and pensioner poverty. They want action.

The Federal Government offers rental support under Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) but it’s not enough and that’s why National Seniors is campaigning to have the CRA to better meet the market costs of specific regions.

Did you know 15% of older Australians don’t own or are paying off their own home? Rental costs have increased significantly over the past 10 years. While rents increased 29 per cent over that period, CRA increased by only 23 per cent. That means more older people are exposed to higher costs, a lower living standard and increased risk of homelessness.

Commonwealth Rent Assistance – how do I qualify?

To qualify for Rent Assistance, a person or family must qualify for an eligible social security payment, more than the base rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A, or an eligible Department of Veterans’ Affairs service pension or income support supplement, and pay or be liable to pay more than a minimum amount of rent, called the rent threshold, for their principal home, which could be a moored boat.

Rent Assistance is generally not payable to a person who:

  • pays rent to a government housing authority (such as a housing commission)
  • owns or is buying the home in which they live (except for mobile and relocatable homes)
  • lives in a Commonwealth funded place in a nursing home or other aged care facility
  • has a partner who receives Rent Assistance with their Family Tax Benefit
  • is an allowee and has a partner receiving Rent Assistance with a pension; or
  • is a single person without children who lives in their parents’ home and is aged under 25 years (or under 21 years if on a Disability Support Pension).

Special rules also apply to couples who do not live together, for anyone who has to live away from their usual home in order to give or receive care, and for single people sharing accommodation.

Rates of Rent Assistance

Rent Assistance is payable at the rate of 75 cents for every dollar of rent payable above the rent threshold until the maximum rate of payment is reached. Rent thresholds and maximum rates vary according to a customer's family situation and the number of children. For singles without children, the maximum rate may be reduced if the accommodation is shared with others. Rent thresholds and maximum rates are indexed in March and September each year to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index.

Fix pension poverty and improve housing options for older Australians

We are calling on the Federal Government to lift the maximum rate of rent assistance.

Ultimately, it should be set by the Independent Pension Tribunal so pensioners who rent to receive enough income to meet reasonable living costs, no matter where they live.

Increased rental support is just one aspect of our Fix Pension Poverty and Better housing campaigns .

Chief Advocate, Ian Henschke discussed the issue on ABC radio.

You can listen to the audio here.

Our will also work to improve housing options.

With your support, National Seniors will continue to push for better outcomes for all older Australians.

Learn more

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