New data shows more older Australians are suffering mortgage and housing stress that is negatively impacting their mental health and well-being.
In line with national figures, Ballarat social welfare agencies say they have seen an increase in the number of older women experiencing issues that put them at higher risk of homelessness.
An Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Research report released on Tuesday reveals mortgage debt among older Australians has gone up 600 per cent over the past 30 years and nearly half of all Australians aged 55 to 64 are still paying off a mortgage.
Most funded agencies are not able to assist with mortgage repayments.Wendy Ferguson, Uniting
The report also shows the demand for Commonwealth Rent Assistance is projected to rise by 60 per cent, from 414,000 in 2016 to 664,000 in 2031.
It also shows the unmet demand for public housing from private renters aged over 55 is expected to rise by 78 per cent-from 200,000 to 440,000 households-between 2016 and 2031.
Uniting Ballarat Senior Manager Housing and Homelessness Services Wendy Ferguson said Uniting had seen an increase in the number of older women experiencing loss of employment, relationship breakdown, as well as little, if any superannuation to fall back on.
"These issues coupled with limited money coming in from income support can put them at a higher risk of homelessness," she said.
"Added to this is the issue of mortgage debt. Most funded agencies are not able to assist with mortgage repayments. Often the only option is to approach the bank to request suspension of payments while unemployed, but this can also result in the bank foreclosing on the mortgage."
Salvation Army Ballarat team leader John Clonan confirmed women over the age of 55 were presenting to their financial counselor with mortgage stress.
Ballarat City Senior Citizens president Geoff Pitt said he was hearing from members that rising gas and electricity bills were also placing pressure on seniors.
"I know a couple who went without gas mid-winter because they couldn't afford it anymore," he said.
"The pension has to keep up with the cost of living."
The AHURI report's recommendations include reform to the housing sector to address population ageing and precarious home ownership, and budgeting for housing assistance for the growing population of elderly low-income renters.