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Retiree Renters are the Silent Victims of the Housing Crisis

James Mathias March 22, 2024

The housing crisis affects not just young people.

A record number of retirees are also victims of it.

Just as Australians who are embarking on careers and starting families despair about being locked out of the property market, potentially for life, retirees are, at the other end of their working years, also experiencing the anguish of being beholden to a landlord for a roof over their head.

The cost of this loss of financial and emotional security is incalculable. It manifests in countless ways, from ill health and depression to family breakdowns.

As usual, it is government policies and intervention in our personal finances that is the main cause.

Record high immigration is putting pressure on housing supply, green and red tape is stopping developers from providing the new stock we need, and, worst of all, compulsory superannuation is locking our own money away when we need it most to invest in real estate.

After 30 years of compulsory superannuation, the results are in. A record number of Australians are retiring without owning their own home, and are reliant on Commonwealth rental assistance to survive.

The forced saving of personal retirement funds has barely put a dent in the number of people drawing the pension.

Worse, more than 270,000 older Australians are either homeless, marginally housed or renting a home they can’t afford.

Appearing before a Senate committee inquiry into improving outcomes in Australia’s retirement system, Menzies Research Centre deputy director and ADH presenter James Mathias said that unless the system enables people to make their own decisions about their own money, things will only going to get worse.

Policy making on retirement outcomes focuses too heavily on how compulsory super can support the over-55s as they transition out of the workforce.

The time has come to extend the remit of super so that it can support strategic retirement decisions for those aged 35 and younger.

To do this, we need to harness that otherwise untouchable asset to deliver a significant retirement asset – the family home.

But the vested interests in the government and the superannuation industry are determined to not let this happen.

Watch James Mathias testify before the Senate committee here.

Fred Pawle asks Sydney University students if they think superannuation is a good idea here.

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