Sep 25, 2023

Melbourne’s rental crisis breaking point: Older woman moves six times in nine years

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Living on a disability pension with health issues, 70-year-old Lesley could not afford her latest rent rise of $60 a week – about 55% of her income. [Source: ABC News]

The state of Australia’s rental market is letting down more and more vulnerable older people as application competition, rent prices and housing anxiety soars. 

 Lesley Scott-Smith, 70, thought her last move 12 months ago – her fifth lease in eight years – would be the last she’d have to endure before she moved into aged care but that was not the case. 

Living on a Disability Support Pension (DSP) in Melbourne’s suburbs with health issues, Lesley could not afford her latest rent increase of $60 a week – equating to about 55% of her income. 

That meant the overwhelming process of moving once again with scoliosis, two forms of arthritis and multiple replacement surgeries was again a reality for Lesley who only has one friend – who also has health issues – in the area she can call for help.

“Bending to put things into packing boxes — that is extremely hard […] I’ll have to bring the charities [in to help me],” she told ABC News

As a stroke of luck and years of writing appealing rental applications, Lesley has managed to secure a new place after applying for only three properties – but 71-year-old Louise Wilksch wasn’t so lucky.

In August, Louise received an eviction notice stating she had two weeks to move out of her Brunswick East rental in Melbourne after 25 years of living at the property and paying only $900 a month.

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After 25 years in the same rental, Louise found she was priced out of the area she calls home. [Source: The Guardian]

“I’ve been lucky – but now suddenly I’m not lucky,” she told The Guardian

After sharing her story via letterbox-dropping, Louise touched the hearts of others who started a GoFundMe to help her find somewhere else to live. Her age means she would be put on the priority list for public housing, but the average wait time is 20 months.

Lesley and Louise are two of a growing number of Australians over 55 who are facing insecure housing situations.

Anglicare’s recent rental affordability snapshot revealed that 0.4% of private rentals are affordable for on the Age Pension and 0.1% are affordable for those on DSP.

According to PropTrack’s August Market Insight data, rental vacancy rates dropped to 1.43% in July, with a shortage of available properties driving up prices with Melbourne experiencing it the worst out of other major Australian cities.

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