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Pensioners priced out of major city rents

Many aged pensioners in major cities are paying up to or more than 60 per cent of their income on rent, often forcing them to choose between buying food and medicine, a new report shows.

The annual Rental Affordability Index (RAI) says most metropolitan rentals for aged pensioners on low-to-moderate incomes are “severely” or “extremely” unaffordable.

Council for the Ageing also says that many of these pensioners are having to choose between buying food or buying medicine after paying rent.

“People are making compromises about food, about their medicines, making compromises about keeping hot or cold in different seasons,” COTA chief executive Ian Yates said. “These are all choices we don’t really expect Australian pensioners to have to make in the 21st century.”

The RAI report showed that for an aged pensioner on an annual income of $26,600, a one-bedroom metropolitan rental cost up to or more than 60 per cent of their total income.

The report also said that most aged pensioner couples living in metropolitan areas put between 36 and 68 per cent of their typical $45,800 income into rent.

Yates said that the answer was not simply telling pensioners to move to the country as other costs, such as for transport, also had a bearing on expenditure.

“Some people do, but not everyone is in the situation to move if they need access to health services. It is counterproductive to move away from those,” he said.

Regional areas weren’t necessarily that much more affordable, Yates said.

The RAI report also showed that rentals in Geelong, near Melbourne, were “predominantly unaffordable” for aged pensioner couples.

Rentals in Ballarat and Bendigo were moderately unaffordable, consuming up to 30 per cent of a couple’s income.

“Not all regional areas are (affordable) and as more and more people commute from those regional areas, that drives prices up,” Yates said. “You can swap less unaffordable housing situations for things like increased transport costs to access health services.”

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