Home for Good: Social Housing for an Ageing Population

May 6, 2020


This policy brief is part of our Home for Good series. You can find more about the Home for Good project here. You can read the previous policy brief in the series – Improving the Private Rental Market for Older Australians – here.


This series of Home for Good policy briefs, by Per Capita’s Centre for Applied Policy in Positive Ageing (CAPPA) in partnership with The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI), applies findings from more than ten years of combined research in ageing, housing and inequality to inform housing policy recommendations for an ageing Australia.

In our first policy brief, we introduced TACSI’s ‘three critical functions’ of a good home in older age. These ‘three critical functions’, co-designed over five years with older Australians, express what a ‘good home’ means to older people:

Asset: Rather than financial equity, the real asset in relation to housing is security of tenure, enabling choice and control of your living circumstances and how you live your life.

Gateway: Good homes connect us to others and to our community, critical to reducing loneliness and isolation.

Expression: Home is where we express and evolve our identity. Having control over our space and being able to invest in ‘place’ enables us to form stronger and more congruent identities.

In our second policy brief, we identified how Australia’s private rental market often fails to provide these three critical functions of home for older people and explored innovative ways in which it could change or adapt to better serve Australia’s ageing population.

In this, our third policy brief, we turn our attention to Australia’s social housing sector. In the context of declining home ownership and growing housing insecurity among older Australians, we ask whether social housing can provide the three critical functions of home as we age.

We will consider how older Australians fit into the existing social housing system and use Per Capita and TACSI research to outline what older people want from social housing. We will then investigate the ways in which the current system falls short, creating problems for older Australians, including problems of access, affordability, stock design and condition, and location.

We will then use our work co-designing housing solutions with and for older Australians to recommend a series of policy changes to move us towards a social housing sector that adapts to the changing needs of our ageing population.

The need for social and affordable housing will only grow as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic upon us at the time of writing, and Australian governments at all tiers will need to prioritise housing and innovate in relation to funding and investment. Housing providers will need to grow their imagination in relation to the types of social housing that will best meet the needs of a diverse and ageing tenant body.

Most importantly, governments and providers will need to drive innovation in social housing governance structures by piloting new models of ‘bottom-up’ ownership that help ensure social housing residents are integrated and valued members of their broader community.