Property Australia

Older Australians and the housing aspirations gap


Owning a three-bedroom detached house in the middle and outer suburbs of our cities remains the aspiration for most older Australians, but we need greater housing choice, says AHURI.

A survey of 2,400 people over the age of 55 has found current housing meets the short-term housing aspirations of more than 90 per cent of older Australians – but only 70 per cent of their long-term needs as they age.

The research, Older Australians and the housing aspirations gap, was undertaken for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) by researchers from Curtin University and Swinburne University of Technology.

According to the report, the middle or outer suburbs of Australian cities are most desirable to older Australians – and this increases with age.

There is a strong desire to live in small regional towns for those aged between 55 and 74 years, while those aged 75 and over are more likely to indicate a preference for inner city suburbs. Few older Australians want to live in the CBD of a capital city.

The research reveals that more than two thirds of older Australians want to live in a detached freestanding home, with the remaining third preferring an attached dwelling or apartment.

Around 50 per cent of older Australians want to live in a home with three bedrooms, while just 20 per cent wanted four or more. The preference for large dwellings drops sharply with age.

Lead author, Dr Amity James from Curtin University, says the research emphasises “great demand from older Australians for two and three-bedroom dwellings located in high level amenity locations”.

“While apartments are an important product for around 13 per cent of older Australians, smaller attached houses also offer a solution.”

Regional areas also need a greater diversity of dwelling product, James adds.

“Regardless of location, the delivery of housing which meets these aspirations will require a joint approach between developers and planners.”

The research found that the housing “aspirations gap” was highest among renters in the private and social housing sectors, who faced discrimination, limited housing options and insecurity of tenure.

“We need to find ways to assist older Australians to sustain home ownership and develop alternative tenure options which offer the type of security desired,” explains the report’s co-author, associate professor Steven Rowley.

“Specific retirement living products have an important role to play along with a reformed private rental sector,” Rowley says. Increased housing diversity would “offer more choice allowing older households to reduce the size of their dwelling”.

Ben Myers, executive director of the Retirement Living Council, says housing supply for older Australians is a critical issue for governments at all levels, as millions of Australian baby boomers begin to think about how they want to live in their 70s, 80s and beyond.

“The retirement village sector is planning for customers – future residents – who want more tailored solutions, with adaptable housing and a broader range of services that give them the freedom to stay independent and happier for longer,” says Myers.

“What’s clear from this new research is that there is still some confusion among older Australians about what retirement villages offer, which is contributing to the aspirations gap that has been identified.

“This is exactly why we created the ‘A Wise Move’ campaign last year. This has been a key part of our plan to help educate Australians about retirement village living and to show how the industry is providing a broad range of independent living options that are focused on those important customer aspirations of living happier, healthier lives.”

Download Older Australians and the housing aspirations gap.