Older renters need urgent Government housing support

BY DAVID MARSHALL - National Vice President Grey Power NZ Federation INC.

A growing number of retirees are facing the challenge of renting as they age. Suitable affordable properties are rare, and often only offer short term tenancies resulting in uncertainty and stress.

For those retirees with limited financial resources trying to survive on the single NZ Superannuation weekly payment of $477.52, rental payments can easily exceed 60% of their income. This leaves very little for energy, food, transport and other basics.

To qualify for an Accommodation Supplement a single retiree needs to have less than $8100 in cash assets ($16,100 for a couple) – a tiny amount to feel secure about the future and unexpected financial challenges. This asset level is in stark contrast to those who qualify for social housing which allows cash assets of up to $42,700.

Our older citizens deserve to live in dignity when they can no longer work, and for a growing number who need to rent, this is no longer the case in New Zealand.

In Last Home Renters, director Vanessa Patea constructs a portrait of her 76-year-old father, a Māori fisherman. It is narrated through a series of intimate but understated interviews with Rodney, who is in a position an increasing number of us will face as the housing crisis continues.

Rodney’s story is part of a SpinOff article by Rachel Judkins that also documents the story of Jenny’s challenges trying to rent and to survive financially as a retiree.

The Better Later Life – He Oranga Kaumātua 2019 to 2034 strategy document, from the Office for Seniors, acknowledges that for some retirees NZ Super is no longer sufficient to live in dignity in retirement.

“As our population continues to age and numbers of older people increase, central government will need to spend more on NZ Super and health care costs. We also expect to see increased numbers of financially vulnerable older people needing extra support, including housing support,” the report says.

We need a government prepared to act compassionately to get New Zealand back on track to ensure our older retirees are able to live in dignity in secure affordable housing.

This will require urgent changes to asset eligibility for Accommodation Supplements to match those for Social Housing, an increased supply of affordable appropriate housing for older people, as well as a much-needed increase in the maximum Accommodation Supplement, to make up for over 5 years of a sinking lid policy with zero increments – not even CPI adjustments! The need for action is urgent.

Read the SpinOff article and watch Last Home Renters here: www.thespinoff.co.nz/society/07-12-2023/the-worrying-rise-of-retired-renters

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