A not-for-profit community housing provider called Women’s Property Initiatives, have just completed the construction of four town houses in Beaconsfield with support from philanthropists that are designed to provide affordable and adaptable housing for the many older women priced out of the private market. These homes will enable these women, who are not in a position to own a home of their own and do not qualify for social housing because they have some savings, to invest in affordable housing and secure their future.
“We currently own 101 homes around Melbourne providing accommodation for more than 250 women and children”, says Communications Manager Sally Martin. “We represent women because they face the most disadvantage in their access to affordable housing.”
“Through research a few years ago, we identified a sizeable group of women over 55 who don’t qualify for the social housing that we provide because they have some savings, but these savings are certainly not enough to be able to access a mortgage or own a home of their own. This led us to embark on a project where these women could invest some of their retirement savings ($150K) in a high quality, accessible, affordable home. They would still pay an affordable rent (no more than 30% of income), but their investment is preserved and can be accessed at any time with interest if the home no longer suits their needs. This arrangement prevents them from exhausting their savings in an unaffordable private rental market, needing more costly social housing in the future or worse, becoming homeless.”
The four homes in Beaconsfield are architect designed, light filled, have flexible spaces and beautiful landscaping, and a range of high-end fixtures. Importantly they are thoughtfully designed for sustainability and the ability for the residents to age in place.
More than 400,000 women over the age of 45 are currently at risk of homelessness in Australia. Many of these women have worked their whole lives and cared for others, but now find themselves in insecure housing.
According to the Council to Homeless Persons, every day Australian specialist homelessness services turn away 155 women because of a lack of resources and affordable housing. The number one reason women over the age of 55 access specialist homelessness services is due to family violence. Economic and cultural factors are also driving older women to homelessness, and the rate is projected to rise as housing services and eligibility factors exclude this ageing population. Instead, women seek to self-manage their circumstances, such as moving between family and friends, concealing the true extent of the crisis.
This trend has inspired Women’s Property Initiatives (WPI), a Victorian based not for profit Community Housing Organisation, to look for sustainable and scalable solutions to this problem. WPI’s core mission is to create new beginnings for women at risk of homelessness by providing permanent and affordable homes and access to support networks. WPI has embarked upon a project to assist low-income women with some savings (usually a small superannuation payout). This makes them ineligible for social housing that WPI typically provides, yet they don’t have the financial capacity to access a mortgage or own a home on their own. These women are currently locked into the private rental market watching their savings being depleted which puts them at risk of homelessness in the future. WPI has built four town homes in Beaconsfield to pilot this project. The homes provides women with an opportunity to make a $150,000 investment to secure a high quality, affordable and adaptable home that will allow them to age in place. The value of their original investment will be preserved and can be accessed, with interest, at any time in the future if they decide the property no longer meets their needs. The women will be charged rent that is no more than 30% of their income and WPI will be responsible for the costs of maintaining the properties.
Older women become homeless at a later stage following a conventional life of working and raising a family. They typically have modest savings, retire with superannuation savings that are 40% less than men (on average), and own fewer assets as they were likely to have been the primary carers of the family. This places women at a financial disadvantage compared to men of the same age. A single crisis or change of circumstances can lead them to homelessness.
For those interested in more details, please contact
- Jeanette Large, CEO on 0400199426 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Sally Martin, Communications Manager on 0413777455 or email email@example.com.