Affordable Housing Program for Older Women Launches
29 November 2016 at 11:43 am
Social housing provider Women’s Property Initiatives has launched a pilot program to support older, low-income women secure long-term housing, with the help of a $300,000 innovation grant.
The shared-ownership program takes a “different” and “innovative” approach to the supply of affordable housing, allowing older women with modest assets to enter into joint home ownership with Women’s Property Initiatives (WPI).
While they will continue to pay rent on a portion of the property, the cost is affordable, and the women’s investment and tenancy is secure.
WPI project and development manager Caroline Larcher said the pilot was targeting women not reached by services and, consequently, at risk of slipping through the cracks.
“We provide long-term housing for low-income women and children. To be eligible for our housing, people have to be not only on low income, but also have very limited assets, so not much money in the bank basically,” Larcher told Pro Bono Australia News.
“What we’ve identified is a significant number and a growing number of older women approaching retirement age who are on low incomes but actually have some assets and fall between the gaps a bit.
“So they don’t have enough money to get into home ownership on their own, but they have too much money to be eligible for any form of social housing.
“They’re sort of stuck in the private rental market and it’s really not meeting their needs because it doesn’t provide them with any sort of longer-term security… the private rental market is generally characterised by 12-month leases and even that, landlords can get out of if they wish, so there’s very little security of tenure, and rents are rising.”
WPI operates in Melbourne which, the latest Rental Affordability Index revealed, is the city with the greatest decline in affordability since 2013.
The $300,000 grant from the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, to be delivered over two years, will allow WPI to build several homes for older women interested in shared equity housing.
Larcher said WPI said there was demand for the program.
“We’ve had some funding to do some research and really ensure that… there is a real problem that needs to be solved and that there’s genuine interest from people who fall into this category for some form of part ownership or shared ownership,” she said.
“It’s a shared equity product, but it’s not what’s generally understood by shared equity, which is basically getting into mortgages on a low threshold.
“We’re talking about older women who can’t access mortgages because they’ve either got little or no working life ahead of them, so really accessing a mortgage to pay off over a 30-year period is just not acceptable, they can’t do it.
“So what the Lord Mayor’s funding will do is for a pilot project so we can actually develop houses and enter into a shared equity arrangement with a small number of women.”
After the pilot WPI hopes to be able to roll the program out on a wider scale.