The Housing Needs of Older Residents in NSW – a Practical Solution

Over the past year, Shelter NSW has been reviewing and making submissions on over 30 Local Strategic Planning Statements and Local Housing Strategies across regional NSW. In undertaking this review, we found that about a third of the population in regional centres were 55 and over, with many of these older residents living alone but in large dwellings. It was clear that these residents had limited housing choice available, as stand-alone dwellings make up over 95% of the existing housing stock. Despite this existing mismatch between housing need and supply, new development in these regional centres remained focused on rezoning rural land to deliver more stand along dwellings at the town fringe. This means that ageing residents will continue to have limited housing options to age in place, creating significant problems for older residents who don’t own a home. 

On recognising this real and growing issue, Shelter NSW began seeking possible solutions and found an exemplar in Housing Plus (a Community housing provider located in NSW Central West) whose developments deliver affordable homes for older residents. For example, their Havannah and Baille Street developments in Bathurst which will deliver 20 such homes that offer a real solution for older residents to age in place as well as addressing other local housing issues.

Stacey Miers outside the Housing Plus development in Bathurst, November, 2020

In 2016, 29% of households in Bathurst were renters and 32% were in rental stress. Bathurst is home to the Wiradjuri People with 5.4% of its population being Aboriginal. Residents over 55 made up over 23% of Bathurst population and, as we know, access to affordable housing is a significant safety net for many older Aboriginal people.
Further highlighting the need for housing solutions in this area is The Department of Family and Community Housing’s waiting list which, for one-and two-bedroom properties in Bathurst, is between two and five years. There are approximately 220 people in need of direct housing support so the 20 homes by Housing Plus can offer a real solution to help to reduce the Bathurst waiting list times.
Like most regional centres, Bathurst has an identified need for affordable housing and rents aren’t cheap. This is evident from the NSW Rent and Sales Report (June 2020 quarter-issue 132) which indicated that the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Bathurst was $220 a week and $285 for a two-bedroom. With the aged pension being $472 a week, over half a pensioner’s income would be spent on rent, even in a regional town. 

In an attempt to solve this, Housing Plus’ development on Havannah and Baille Streets, is made up of one- and two-bedroom villas, with each dwelling meeting Australian Livable Housing Design Guidelines. They’re fully insulated and designed to be energy efficient, aimed at reducing utility cost. The other benefit is that the homes are located within walking distance to Bathurst CBD so residents will be able to access shopping centres and support services easily, making them ideal for older residents to age in place.
The existing streetscape in Havannah Street is made up of small connected cottages built in 1881 and the National Trust had expressed concern regarding the development. Housing Plus responded to these concerns and the new development reflects much of the original heritage street frontage. 

Besides the substantial economic benefits these types of developments bring to regional towns, they also deliver much-needed housing options in townships that have no alternative options for older residents to age in place, connected to their existing community.

The Brickworks, Bathurst’s New Affordable Housing Site. Posted By: Rochelle June 29, 2020 Categories: Developments, News. Https://Www.Housingplus.Com.Au/Brickworks-Bathursts-New-Affordable-Housing-Site/