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Australia Rental stress for NT pensioners locked out of public housing because of asset limit change

00:51  06 april  2021
00:51  06 april  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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This article details the rules and limits of the Age Pension assets test (how much your The assets limits are higher for non-homeowners in recognition of the higher cost of housing for pensioners who rent their home. The table below shows the maximum values of assets you can hold to still be eligible to receive any part pension payment. Find out more. Learn more about the Age Pension in the following SuperGuide articles

Housing advocates like National Shelter, Homelessness Australia and the Community Housing Industry Association want the government to build the same number of homes and repair thousands more, and reckon this can be achieved for less than billion. Secondly, as existing homeowners watched their property wealth grow, some would-be buyers were locked out of the market. As this chart shows, the share of people who own their own home outright has fallen steadily since the mid-1990s, while the share paying off a mortgage has grown, along with the proportion of people renting in the private market.

a person standing in a room: Frances Czoloszynski received a letter saying she is ineligible for public housing. (ABC News: Jesse Thompson) © Provided by ABC NEWS Frances Czoloszynski received a letter saying she is ineligible for public housing. (ABC News: Jesse Thompson)

When Frances Czoloszynski retired at 67 last June, she took a pre-emptive step to secure government housing.

Applicants face a wait time of at least half a decade for most types of public housing across the NT, so Ms Czoloszynski gathered her paperwork, ready to begin her years-long climb to the top of the wait list.

"I thought 'right, now I'll go to housing and put my name down,'" she said.

"I got all the paperwork they wanted, back and forwards, went in, sat back and waited — and then I got a letter saying I wasn't eligible."

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The affordable rental housing problem is not just limited to the Sydney region, with a number of other regional metropolitan areas including the Hunter, Central Coast and the Illawarra feeling the burden of declining rental affordability, with the proportion of rental properties affordable for very low and low income households declining over the last · A general shortage of housing stock because of a stagnant supply response to demand growth; · Residual effects from declining ownership affordability; · Increased competition in the private rental market; · Demographic changes influencing household composition; and.

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Ms Czoloszynski lives in a private rental in Palmerston where she pays below-market rent to a private property owner, earns a pension and has few assets.

But she said she was rejected because she had about $100,000 in superannuation.

In the NT, tenants already in single-bedroom public houses who are older than 55 can have assets — including savings, superannuation and property but excluding cars and furniture — worth up to about $255,000 and remain in their housing.

But in January 2016 — under the former CLP government — the asset limit for new tenants was slashed from about $195,000 to $60,000.

It has since risen over that period to about $70,000, but people like Ms Czoloszynski remain ineligible.

The current Labor government did not directly respond to a question about whether the change was an attempt to cull the sprawling urban public housing wait list.

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Many pensioners and people dependent on welfare or disability payments, who find themselves priced out of the private rental market, seek relief by accessing social housing , which provides a much needed safety net. But here they also face fierce competition. An adequate supply of social housing would mean that older Australians are better able to age in place and not have to forgo daily essentials simply to pay their rent , and people with disability are not left to fend for themselves in substandard dwellings that make no allowance for their particular needs.

Publicly -owned real estate alone normally represents about a quarter of the total real estate market in a city . Managing these assets could generate a return that would give a real boost to the amount of housing built each year. It would also help fund the required maintenance, which is the bulk of the lifetime cost of an asset . A professional understanding of the portfolio of assets would allow local government to formulate a comprehensive strategy for all of its real estate, including the overlooked parcels of land and neglected buildings that could be suitable for development of residential housing .

But a spokeswoman for Urban Housing Minister Kate Worden said it was introduced to recognise public housing should support those "most in need".

'A very, very tight squeeze'

Advocates are concerned many seniors will now have little choice but to spend their superannuation on the Top End's inflated private rental market, where rents have risen and vacancy rates tumbled in recent months.

"For a unit like this, it's $320, $350 a week," Ms Czoloszynski said.

"I only get just over $1,000 a fortnight. I wouldn't be able to survive. I wouldn't be able to feed myself."

The NT government's own housing strategy says there is a "critical undersupply" of housing and limited affordable private market properties for people on income support payments.

Sue Shearer from the Council on the Ageing NT said pensioners forced onto the private market could struggle to cover basic living expenses, although she noted the existence of Commonwealth rent subsidies.

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This can result from rent exceeding the Public Housing Authority’s ability to adequately subsidize the voucher holder’s portion of, or a landlord’s unwillingness to participate in, the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program. Periods of low vacancy, such as Minneapolis is currently experiencing, typically exacerbate both of This includes children who live in shelters and transitional housing ; those living in motels, hotels, and weekly-rate residences; those doubled-up with friends or non-immediate family; those living in abandoned buildings, public space, or cars; and those awaiting foster care placement.

"It's going to be very difficult for them on an old age pension to actually survive in private housing," she said.

"It still does not leave a lot for the bare necessities of food, running a car, maybe health insurance, other issues that you obviously need money for.

"It's a very, very tight squeeze for seniors."

Ms Shearer is calling for more appropriate housing options for the NT's elderly, including new retirement villages.

"If you were a cynic… one might say that they did this to cut the wait list," he said.

Housing numbers go backwards

The concerns have been raised as the urban public housing wait list has grown in recent years, with more than 5,000 current applications for housing and transfers.

Despite this, the NT government recently announced it would demolish a 32-unit housing complex in the Top End city of Palmerston, with occupants to be moved into housing elsewhere.

The 2019 demolition of a 75-unit block in the northern Darwin suburb of Nightcliff sent the government's total public housing stock backwards in the 2019-20 financial year, according to department documents.

Ms Worden's spokeswoman said the government was making up the shortfall with two social housing developments in Darwin, including one with nearly 80 new places.

"We are building 78 social housing units, specifically designed for seniors and people living with disabilities, at John Stokes Square, which is made up of 66 one-bedroom and 12 two-bedroom units," she said.

"We are also bringing in more access to appropriate, accessible and affordable housing."

Meanwhile, Ms Czoloszynski's super balance is shrinking.

She is concerned she will be at least in her mid-70s by the time she makes it to the top of the wait list for a single-bedroom unit, which is six-to-eight years long in Darwin and Palmerston.

"I've got $78,000 in super left. I'm okay at the moment with my housing, but I don't know what my future holds," she said.

"I don't feel secure."

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