Cohousing: An Alternative Tenure for Senior Australians?

It is a well-publicised demographic trend that Australia, like many nations around the world, is home to an increasingly aged population. In 2016, 16 per cent of the New South Wales population was aged over 65 years, but this is expected to rise to 25 per cent by 2056. Ten per cent of the population of NSW will be over 80 years of age by 2056, and there will be a tenfold increase compared to 2016 in the number of people aged over 100 years in NSW. Further, increased longevity is a trend set to continue, with the life expectancy for NSW expected to rise to 88.6 and 91.4 years for men and women respectively by 2056.

Despite many policies assuming that large numbers of baby boomers will be able to provide for themselves,  around three quarters of pension-aged people will be eligible for the age pension. The average superannuation balance for 65-74 year olds is over $300,000, however this figure can be deceiving, as the median superannuation balance for the same cohort is zero.

The private home is the housing of choice for older Australians, with seniors overwhelmingly remaining in their homes and more than 80 per cent of people over 60 years old indicating that living in their own home is their preferred living arrangement. (7) Whilst the vast majority are home owners, a small but significant proportion of older Australians (13.4 per cent) are renters, and they are disproportionately represented amongst both long-term renters and public housing tenants.

Housing the ageing population of Australia in homes that are affordable, accessible and sustainable presents a major challenge for the state, particularly in a time of rising housing costs. Older people want to age in place in accessible homes that allow them to remain connected to their family and friends. However, many fail to anticipate the health and financial challenges they will experience as they age. As a result, their housing choices can be diminished. Often, this leads to seniors living in substandard or overpriced accommodation, living in inaccessible housing, suffering insecurity of tenure, and becoming isolated and lonely. New housing options are needed to address these challenges.

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