Many reports suggest that New Zealand’s housing stock isn’t set up to cope with our ageing population. Earlier this year the Government released it’s housing stock-take report, which shows an additional 2,000 people a year are claiming both an accommodation supplement and superannuation.
Why is this?
Dropping home ownership rates have had a large impact on the type of accommodation some older people are be able to access. Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell has also commented on this issue, ”We will see a growing group of retirees who are renting. Some of the challenges with renting are particularly hard for older New Zealanders: uncertainty around length of tenancy, the physical and financial demands of moving house and increased isolation if you don’t know your neighbours.” The New Zealand Housing Foundation, an independent charitable trust, found that the need for rental houses for older people was projected to increase 81 per cent over the next 12 years, from 2120 houses to 3830.
Not just any rental will do
The costs of living are getting tougher for older people to meet. This will hit older people living on fixed incomes the hardest. Already there are an increasing number of older people struggling so much to make ends meet, they’re turning to campgrounds and caravan parks for accommodation. This will, in turn, put pressure on the Government to provide benefits to ‘top up’ and meet the needs. To help alleviate this stress, there is a need for strong tenancy laws that provide peace of mind for older renters. In addition to this, there is a call for rentals that are low maintenance, well insulated, close to public transport and shops.
What is the Government doing?
Earlier last month, Associate Minister of Health Jenny Salesa attended the Home and Community Health Association’s Homespace forum in Wellington. The Government has promised to build more affordable housing and is mindful that many of these homes will be required to meet the needs of an ageing population. Salesa, who is also Minister of Building and Construction and Associate Minister of Housing and Urban Development, stressed that she does not have the written agreement of the Minister of Housing Phil Twyford on this policy. But she said that Twyford, Seniors Minister Tracey Martin and herself all acknowledged that “the Government should ensure that we have homes for our elder folks”.
Watch this space…
Do we have to build new?
While building new rental housing suitable for older people may not be feasible, adapting existing housing could be another way. What if larger houses were subdivided into smaller units?
Research carried out to date shows that it is possible to convert typical New Zealand houses to allow ageing in place in smaller units that are easier to heat and meet Lifemark Home standards. But this might not satisfy the target client group. There was little enthusiasm for very small living units and sharing space (apart from outside space). This suggests that engaging potential users in the design process at an early stage would be a good idea.
“Converting houses into smaller units …… seems like a good idea but is not worth doing unless people want to live in them.“
For more information about this issue read these articles:
Another housing option – Divide and Share by Judith Davey