Older People in Housing-related Poverty

The Government has recently released its report ‘Stocktake of New Zealand Housing’ which looks at homelessness and housing-related poverty. Undertaken by a team of independent experts, this report brings into the open the consequences of falling home ownership. A significant cause is the under-supply of housing; the number of houses being built has fallen behind the rate of population increase. This has pushed up house prices and rents.

In 2013, less than 65% of households owned their home. This is the lowest rate of home ownership since 1953. Importantly, the declining home ownership rates are affecting people entering retirement, and the number of retirees who are renting or still have a mortgage is increasing. For older people renting, security of tenure is an important issue. With a periodic tenancy, landlords can give tenants 90 days’ notice without having to give a reason. Many tenants are forced to move when the property they are renting is sold. Statistics show that around 30% of tenants who move do so because their landlord has sold.

The proportion of older people living in a debt free home has fallen to its current level of 72%. This is a very worrying trend.  The framework for NZ Superannuation was set with an assumption of a high level of debt-free home ownership amongst retirees. This is no longer the case, and there are increasing numbers of retirees receiving an accommodation supplement to help cover the costs of rent or mortgage repayments. Since 2012, the number of superannuitants receiving an accommodation supplement has risen by 22%. The supplement is generally not enough to cover the rent or mortage payments in full and hence many retirees are suffering from housing-related poverty. Sadly, much of the future demand for housing assistance is expected to come from older tenants.