TAS councils making a difference in affordable housing

Tasmania is in the grip of a rental housing affordability crisis. What do local governments do to help?

Rural areas in particular lack rental options. To find housing, older people living in rural areas may often face a heartbreaking decision to leave their community.

The Conversation wanted to know whether local governments recognised this issue and actively helped seniors to continue living in their communities. They found much more. Local governments have not traditionally been recognised as housing providers, yet many of Tasmania’s 29 local councils do provide subsidised accommodation.

The Conversation reports that local councils have been forced to intervene because the state is in the grip of an affordable housing crisis.

The publication invited all of Tasmania’s 29 local governments to participate in an online survey. They received responses from 19 local government areas, 12 of which were complete.

Of those that responded, three councils provided local rental accommodation for older people. Two provided this at below-market rent specifically for those on low or fixed incomes. For example, in June 2017, Central Highlands Council advertised residential units for lease to low-income, local retirees.

Asset tests were not always applied. This meant older farmers who needed to be more centrally located for health reasons were able to apply.

Where councils identified that they leased properties targeted at seniors, most of these were bought or built in the 1980s with state and federal funding support. These grant programs no longer exist.

The Conversation found that local governments in Tasmania actually used a surprisingly diverse range of approaches to support local housing of older people. Some provided council land to third parties for building seniors accommodation. Others hosted public forums to highlight sale and rental accommodation suitable for seniors in their council areas.

The article concludes that the findings of the survey highlight the importance of getting a better understanding of the diverse ways in which local councils can support housing in their communities. It says that the roles of rural councils are particularly important to explore, given the socioeconomic disadvantages entrenched in these communities.

The full article is available at this link.