By Paul Dobbyn
A BRISBANE grandmother in her late 70s, forced to live on the streets for eight months to secure social housing, is one example of the impact of rising rents on pensioners.
Rosies manager Troy Bailey said the woman’s predicament highlighted a dysfunctional welfare system.
“She couldn’t afford to keep up with rising rental costs and eventually moved in with a daughter with eight children at Woodridge,” Mr Bailey said.
“Such an arrangement was impossible to maintain but when the elderly woman sought affordable government housing, she was told she would have to be defined as homeless.
“So she finished up living on the streets in inner city Brisbane at great risk to her personal safety and mental health.
“Such vulnerable people become extremely jumpy, afraid of their own shadows as it were … they often break under the mental pressure.
“It took this poor woman eight months to be allocated social housing.
“A lady of this age should never be forced to live on the streets to get support.
“There’s something extremely wrong with such a system.”
Mr Bailey’s comments came as the Queensland Council of Social Service’s released its latest Cost of Living Report.
The report said single age pensioners renting in the private market were likely to be paying nearly half their pension on rent.
QCOSS chief executive officer Mark Henley said the report, which looked at the cost of living and age pensioner households, revealed the cost of renting privately was pushing those on low incomes over the edge.
Mr Henley said the report showed single age pensioners renting in the private market in Brisbane spend as much as 48 per cent of their income on housing costs, while couples renting in the same market spend over 40 per cent, putting both groups in “housing stress”.
“’Housing stress’ is defined as occurring when more than 30 per cent of gross income is spent on housing costs,” he said.
“Age pensioners who don’t own their own home are struggling on two fronts.
“On the one hand, Commonwealth Rent Assistance is failing to meet the increasing cost of renting in the private market.
“On the other hand, there continues to be long waiting lists for suitable social housing as an alternative to private rental.”
Mr Bailey said Rosies was seeing pensioners and others under housing stress often forced to choose to make difficult choices.
“They are either spending a lot of their pension on rent and coming out in the streets to eat,” he said.
“Or they’re falling behind in their rent as they try to eat.
“There has got to be a better way for society to look after its most vulnerable people.”