The Facts

Housing insecurity

An older Asian woman sitting in front to a brick wall

The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute says housing insecurity experienced by low-income renters is multi-dimensional, including:

needing to move as a result of circumstances outside a person’s control

instability in housing circumstances

feeling unsafe within the home and its environs

lack of privacy

lack of supporting relationships and connection to the local community

lack of comfort

Homelessness

When you think of homelessness, couch surfing with family and friends or pet sitting may not come to mind. However, these unstable forms of housing are amongst the many ways older women, including in the Blue Mountains, are making do. They are struggling to enter or survive in the private rental market.

Research shows older women are now the fastest growing group to experience homelessness in Australia. The 2016 Census estimated there were 6,900 older women experiencing homelessness across the nation.

The Australian Human Rights Commission highlights in a 2019 report that being homeless is not just about lack of access to shelter: “Beyond a roof over your head, a home provides safety, security and stability, as well as the ability to control your living space, and maintain community connections such as social networks, health care and other long-term supports.”

“Often older women are experiencing homelessness for the first time at this later stage in life, having lived conventional lives – and they may still be working or seeking work.” 

The Australian Human Rights Commission

“For some women, a single crisis or change in circumstances can result in homelessness with little or no warning. For others, a combination of factors, such as financial insecurity, the high cost of housing, or relationship breakdown may lead to them slipping down the housing ladder over time.”

The Australian Human Rights Commission

The Homes for Older Women (HOW) program aims to alleviate housing insecurity and stress and prevent homelessness.

Older women are at a greater risk of housing insecurity and homelessness for several reasons including:

relationship separation

death of a partner

job loss or a drop in income

retirement, with significantly lower superannuation balances and savings than men

illness or injury

domestic and family violence

Who is homeless in the Blue Mountains?

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Specialist Homelessness Services Collection, analysed homelessness from 2014 to 2022 and found:

Women had higher rates of homelessness than men in the Blue Mountains, every single year

%

66% of homeless people in the Blue Mountains in 2021-22 were women. This is higher than the national figure.

%

of the number of homeless people in Australia in 2021-22, 60% were women

Rental Stress chart

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2021 Census  

Rental Stress chart

Blue Mountains rental stress

Rental stress has escalated at an alarming rate in the Blue Mountains – 400 per cent compared to under 200 per cent elsewhere, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2021 Census.

Rental stress is when a household spends more than 30% of its income on rent.

Rental stress has increased dramatically everywhere since 2016 but especially in the Blue Mountains.

In 2016, only 8.4% renter households experienced rental stress. By 2021 it was nearly 45% of renter households.

These numbers are COVID-affected but the situation has worsened since 2021.

NSW snapshot

While everyone’s journey to homelessness is unique and complex, primary drivers are financial difficulty, housing crisis and housing affordability stress.

It is often one adverse life event that causes an older woman to be homeless.

Source: Legislative Council Standing Committee’s October 2022 report, Homelessness amongst older people aged over 55 in New South Wales. 

“The sad thing is that a lot of these women experiencing homelessness are not poor as we would see them. They’re professional women. They’re women who simply cannot afford the rent that is now being demanded.”

Beverly Baker, Chair, Older Women's Network NSW

48%

The number of older women over 55 years in NSW experiencing homelessness increased from 1,480 to 2,186 between 2011 and 2016 – a rise of 48 %

78%

There was a particularly pronounced growth in the number of women aged between 65 and 74 experiencing homelessness, which increased by 78 % over the same

110,000 women

The Mercy Foundation estimates 110,000 women over the age of 45 are considered to be at risk of homelessness in New South Wales.

 Find out more about why older women are the fastest growing group of homeless people

and what the Older Women’s Network NSW has to say about it.

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