An affordable housing option for older women
This article was written by Susan Davies, Foundation President of Sharing With Friends
Current levels of homelessness in Australia are shattering our image of a fair and just society. Through no fault of their own older women face the daily horror of living one step away from homelessness. Women over the age of 55, renting and with limited savings are at particular risk of homelessness with numbers growing at three times the rate of older men (Ageing on the Edge, HAAG Report March 2020). Older women are now the fastest
growing group of homeless people in Australia.
Sharing With Friends
The structural issues of the gender inequality in pay rates, women working in caring professions with low pay rates, women leaving the workforce to have children and/or care for aging parents, divorce and domestic violence have left a toll on the security of older women in Australia. As reported in the latest AHURI Research Report “Alternative housing models for precariously housed older Australians” (May 2022), “Precarious housing has negative impacts on the health, safety and wellbeing of older people, while also undermining their
capacity to age well in place. There is an urgent need for innovation in the Australian housing market to drive an expanded and more diverse range of affordable housing options for lower income older people and reduce the need for older people to rely on the private rental sector”.
Research has identified that older women who have been in the workforce are retiring on an average superannuation of $122,848 (The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia Limited, June 2019). With many of these women renting it is calculated their superannuation will be depleted within 5 years of retirement. Burdened with the current reduced rental market and increasing rent payments, older women are increasingly facing the prospect of homelessness.
SHARING WITH FRIENDS
In 2020, some like-minded women from the Zonta Club of Brisbane (an International Women’s organisation committed to the empowerment of women and girls) became aware of how older women were being forgotten and lost within the housing system.
Together they formed Older Women Co-Housing Inc (QLD) trading as Sharing with Friends (SwF) Foundation. The Foundation has PBI (Public Benevolent Institution) status with full tax deductable status.
Sharing with Friends founders recognised the “lost’ group of women who have assets that do not allow them to qualify for social housing, but insufficient funds to buy or meet home loan criteria. SwF has identified one solution where some of these older women can procure safe, secure and affordable housing while aging in place. As Susan Davies President of the Foundation said:
“The women at risk of homelessness are you and me, mum and gran, neighbour and friend and colleague, yet somehow our community has failed them in their senior years.”
Sharing with Friends co-housing project is about providing affordable and safe housing for women at a time in their life where they are most vulnerable. The model creates a place where they can genuinely develop friendships and support while managing their own living environment.
The concept was based around the idea that if limited superannuation or savings could be pooled with a small group of five like-minded women, they could move out of the rental market and live in a supportive, separate, long term, secure environment.
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Read the full article in WFO 2023 Mar Issue 3 – Click below to subscribe now
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