Older women should never be homeless
Many older women have spent a lifetime raising children, caring for family members, working in and outside the home, volunteering and creating a sense of community. It is such a pity that all that mostly unpaid work catches up with some women when they are older, particularly if they are or become single and did not purchase a house. The result is that some older women are living in poverty and some are experiencing homelessness.
Those women do not need living skills or financial skills or anything else. They simply lack an affordable, permanent, safe home. This is a failure of housing policy and a failure of our civil society to ensure that there is adequate housing for all.
Since 2014, the Mercy Foundation has worked to address this injustice through research and advocacy. We have formed working groups to help bring about change in policy and worked to provide solutions to ensure women are not faced with homelessness later in life.
A grant to end homelessness was recently awarded to Women’s Property Initiatives (WPI) for a pilot project to provide housing for older single women on low incomes, via a new delivery model.
The project was initially conceived as a shared equity project between WPI and older women, allowing older women with some assets, usually a small amount of superannuation, to invest in a new home. This model gives older women a stake in an affordable home and provides security of tenure. Since project commencement, WPI has developed a financial model for acquisition and construction costs, considered the legal ramifications of the project, and is continually monitoring project feasibility.
WPI has purchased a residential site which can accommodate four single-storey units.
The plan is for construction to be completed by mid-2019. The project will provide a replicable model that will deliver housing security and peace of mind for many older single women on low incomes.
Sue Mowbray is Manager of Projects & Communications for the Mercy Foundation.