Advocating for housing policy that addresses the needs of women
ERA's Housing Fact Sheets
In 2013, ERA conducted a survey with over 600 women in Australia through the Housing Stressometer. The Housing Stressometer was a social media tool designed to get a better understanding of women's housing wellbeing, in addition to housing affordability. We asked a number of questions about housing suitability to better understand whether housing was meeting the needs of women.
You can read about the full report on the Housing Stressometer here.
ERA Housing Resources
After data and analysis relating to women's housing needs? Here you will find a broad range of information relating to women, housing and homelessness in Australia.
We have assembled a collection of useful resources relating to affordable housing and homelessness. We will continue to add to this list over time, so keep checking! If you have suggestions for further inclusions, please let us know.
The resources are listed below. Beyond the resources hub, you will see a trajectory of ERA's advocacy work in this area. ERA has for a number of years been advocating at a parliamentary level for a housing policy which boosts supply for low-medium income earners and takes account of the needs and experiences of women.
Home Truths: Older Women's Housing Vulnerability in ACT, ACT Shelter July 2014
The impact of rent assistance on housing affordability for low-income renters: New South Wales, Welfare Rights Centre (NSW) and Shelter NSW 2014
Older Women's Pathways out of Homelessness in Australia, February 2014
Living Longer on Less: Women Speak on Superannuation and Retirement, Women's Health in the North and Women's Health Goulburn North East, 2013
Tracking Equity: Comparing Outcomes for Women and Girls Across Australia, COAG Reform Council, 2013
Public housing, women and employment: challenges and strategies Lisa Saugeres and Kath Hulse, November 2010
The Road Home A National Approach to Reducing Homelessness FaCSIA White Paper 2008
National Affordable Housing Agreement (effective 25 July 2012)
Creating a framework for ending homelessness – Homelessness and Women Homelessness Australia
Australia’s Broken Housing System Australians For Affordable Housing 2011
The influence of unstable housing on children’s wellbeing and development Matthew Taylor and Ben Edwards Australian Institute of Family Studies 2012
No home at the end of the Road? A survey of single women over 40 years of age who do not believe they will own their housing outright at retirement Dr Andrea Sharam (Swinburne Institute and The Salvation Army Australia Southern Territory) 2011
It Could Be You: Female Single Older and Homeless Ludo McFerran Aug 2010
Journeys Home Research Report Number 1 – Wave 1 Findings Rosanna Scutella, Guy Johnson, Julie Moschion, Yi-Ping Tseng and Mark Wooden (Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic Research, University of Melbourne)
Journeys Home Research Report Number 2 - Wave 2 Findings Abraham Chigavazira, Guy Johnson, Julie Moschion, Rosanna Scutella, Yi-Ping Tseng and Mark Wooden (Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic Research, University of Melbourne)
Portrait of Women and Girls in Greater Sydney Alison Ziller and Elizabeth Delaney (Sydney Women’s Fund, Sydney Community Foundation) March 2012
Counting the Homeless 2006 Chris Chamberlain and David MacKenzie, Australian Bureau of Statistics
Housing assistance in Australia 2011 AIHW June 2011
Australian Community Sector Survey 2012 ACOSS Paper 191
Homelessness is a Human Rights Issue Australian Human Rights Commission 2008
International Homelessness Policy Review – A report to inform the review of homelessness legislation in Wales Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick and Dr Sarah Johnsen (Institute for Housing, Urban and Real Estate Research, Heriot-Watt University) and Beth Watts (Centre for Housing Policy, University of York) Jan 2012
Too Big to Ignore: Future Issues for Australian Women's Housing 2006-2025, Dr Selina Tually, AHURI 2007
Call for housing working group members
Is your organisation concerned about housing security for women? Housing security affects a wide range of women, from single mothers escaping domestic violence, to young women in low paid employment struggling in the private rental market and older women facing retirement with limited superannuation and no secure home.
ERA is looking for members to join its housing working group . The working group will provide direction and feedback on ERA’s budget submission and election campaign. Working group members will attend one face to face meeting (funded by ERA) and participate in a number of teleconferences.
If your organisation would like to nominate a representative for the group, please let Helen know at firstname.lastname@example.org or call on (02) 6230 5152.
ERA has joined the campaign 'Australians for Affordable Housing'! We're very excited to be working with a coalition of housing, welfare and community organisations campaigning to put the issue of affordable housing on the national political agenda. Together, we are advocating for Federal Government action to increase access to affordable housing.
The Australians for Affordable Housing (AAH) Campaign has released their report, Australia’s Broken Housing System, revealing the grim state of the Australian housing market for those trying to find affordable housing.
The report reveals that over the last ten years, house prices in Australia have risen by 147 percent, while incomes have only risen by 57 percent. In the last five years rents have risen at twice the rate of inflation.
On average, housing costs account for 18 percent of household spending – however over 720,000 low to middle income households pay more than 30 per cent of their income on housing, and more than 460,000 households spend more than half their income on housing costs.
For more information on the Australians for Affordable Housing Campaign, visit www.housingstressed.org.au
October 2011: Research shows older women facing homeless
A combination of low savings and reduced levels of homeownership are meaning older women in Australia are facing increased risk of homelessness. That's the findings from Dr Andrea Sharam 's research report, No Home at the End of the Road, launched in Melbourne by Victorian Minister for Housing Wendy Lovell.
The research survey of 111 women found that 58% of respondents will retire with inadequate or non-existent savings - a low capacity to save influenced by factors such as job instability, history of low and interrupted wags and unpaid caring responsibilities. The survey also suggests women frequently financially support others, further contraining their ability to save for their futures.
The report also investigated women's responses to a new affordable housing scheme, with a community land trust based-shared equity model appealing to most of the target women.
The survey, conducted in 2010, included both public (government) and community housing, typically targeted at low income earners, those who were previously homeless, and people who are otherwise disadvantaged in the housing market. Some key findings:
- Respondents were more likely to be female and older than the general public and community housing population.
- 89% were "satisfied" or "very satisifed" with living in public or community housing.
- 90% felt more settled, and over two thirds felt they enjoyed better health.
What do we know about Women and Rental Housing?
Housing security is fundamental to human dignity. The degrees to which individuals and families have housing security shapes the very functionality of families, as well as the nature of and demand for Government income support programs and the effectiveness of support services provided for the frail, aged and people with a disability.
At any time, approximately one third of Australian households will be renters. They are likely to be concentrated in the bottom two income deciles regardless of family structure, and will also include young people pre-family formation, household units seeking mobility because of workforce requirements, and long-term single person units and retired persons.
In 2006, the estimated shortfall in the supply of affordable rental housing was around 251,000 dwellings. As noted in the final report of Australia's Future Tax System Review (also known as the ‘Henry Tax Review’), over the past decade large parts of Australia have experienced a lack of housing affordability and declining vacancy rates for rental accommodation.
What do we know about women and their situation in rental markets – private, public or community based? Most housing supply data is not gender disaggregated, apart from those relevant to crisis accommodation. However, given women’s generally lower incomes than those of men (influenced by the gender wage gap, and intermittent and part-time work-force attachment as well as occupational segregation into lower income industries), it is evident that women will tend to be clustered in the lower income deciles, and presence in these is a feature of renters.
A number of studies have found that women’s housing security and economic position tends to decline with divorce and separation:
- Women are more likely to lose home ownership as a result of separation or dissolution;
- Women are more likely than men to experience precarious housing circumstances once their marriages have been dissolved;
- Women with children and people over 50 are particularly prone to housing stress after marriage dissolution. Improvement in housing affordability is lower for these groups;
- Divorced or separated women are more likely to be renting;
Australia’s (feminised) aging population also faces struggles in securing affordable rental properties. Recent figures show that women’s superannuation balances are less than half of those of men. As a result, many women are solely or largely reliant on the Age Pension in retirement. If these women are not home owners as they enter retirement they are likely to be renters and to experience housing stress. The figures are set to increase: ABS projections (Series II) suggest that by 2026 about 907,000 people aged 75 years and over will be living alone, most of them women (685,600).
National Rental Affordability Scheme
Commonwealth housing policy centres around the National Housing Affordability Agreement which includes the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) to provide incentives to developers to construct and rent affordable housing whose tenants have access to Rental Assistance, as do those living in Community Housing.
The Rudd Government initially committed $1 billion to the NRAS over four years to stimulate construction of up to 50,000 houses and apartments, providing affordable private rental properties. The scheme was the first major initiative to stimulate affordable rental housing for several decades. The goal was also ambitious – 50,000 properties by 2014.
Early indications showed NRAS was been slower to roll out than initially planned. However, subsidies for for more than 15,000 affordable housing units have been approved, a further 21,000 are under assessment, and applications for fourth funding round that closed on 14th December 2010 was reportedly ‘an avalanche’.
As part of a package of funding cuts to provide restoration funds in the wake of Queensland’s recent natural disasters, the Gillard Government announced cutting $264 million to the NRAS and capping the construction of properties at 35,000. Strong advocacy from housing providers, developers and investors and negotiations with the Australian Greens saw the NRAS funding restored but deferred until after 2015. This compromise was welcomed by national housing and welfare peak bodies as well as the affordable housing industry.
Currently around half of NRAS properties are operated by the not for profit or community sector, the other by commercial construction and housing rental bodies. (Government efforts to generate private investment to complement incentives through the NRAS have been less effective than hoped for). Policy permits these bodies to on-sell to other investors. The NRAS administration plans an annual data collection from renters to ensure compliance with the terms of the NRAS. NRAS administrators have conveyed a willingness to explore means of providing annual gendered data on NRAS tenancies through this compliance measure.
- illuminate the position of women of all ages in the housing market
- monitor trends in women’s housing security, and
- explore options for improving access for women to affordable housing which is compliant with universal design standards as set out in the disability-friendly Liveable Housing Design standards, launched by the Federal Government in July 2010.
Given the scale of the unmet demand for affordable, accessible rental housing, and the lack of gender analysis and data related to affordable housing, the project will:
1. Gender Analysis
Gather data, information and case studies to illuminate the position of women of all ages in the housing market.
2. Proposals to improve and expand access to affordable rental housing
There is a need to explore options to improve and expand the Commonwealth NRAS (and other schemes) which would increase development of accessible affordable rental housing and lead to increased security for long term rental arrangements. There is also a need to investigate how to generate expanded private investment to take advantage of Commonwealth NRAS incentive arrangements.
This work follows up a February 2011 workshop on affordable housing.
Chapter 1 The Shortage of Affordable Housing http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/sa/housing/pubs/homelessness/not-for-profithousingsector/Pages/affordable_housing.aspx
 A Predictable Crisis, Older Women as the New Face of Homelessness, Sharam A., Swinburne Institute of Technology 2010
 Clare, Ross, 2008. Retirement Savings Update. Sydney, Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia. http://www.superannuation.asn.au/Reports/default.aspx
 Ibid., p. 11.