Homelessness among older people aged 55 in NSW: TUNSW provides evidence to NSW Parliament


Today the Tenants' Union of NSW spoke on a panel alongside the Homeless Persons' Legal Service, Public Interest Advocacy Centre and Seniors Rights Service at the public hearing for the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Homelessness amongst older people aged over 55 in New South Wales called by the Standing Committee on Social Issues. Below we publish the opening statement from Leo Patterson Ross, CEO of the Tenants' Union of NSW that highlights some of the key recommendations we made to the Committee.

Sarina Wynn (Seniors Rights Service), Thomas Chailloux (PIAC), Leo Patterson Ross (TUNSW) at NSW Parliament House
Sabina Wynn, Seniors Rights Service; Thomas Chailloux, Public Interest Advocacy Centre; Leo Patterson Ross, Tenants' Union of NSW at NSW Parliament

Opening statement to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry 

Leo Patterson Ross, CEO, Tenants' Union of NSW

Firstly may I thank the Committee for the opportunity to provide evidence today. We welcome the Committee’s consideration and keen interest in solutions to the problem of homelessness and older persons in NSW. I would also like to acknowledge our presence on Gadigal Country in the Eora nation and pay my respects to the elders of this Country. I acknowledge this particularly today because Aboriginal people are far more likely to rent, and far more likely to experience homelessness.

The Tenants’ Union of NSW is the peak body representing the interests of renters in New South Wales and a community legal centre specialising in renting law. We - and the network of Tenants’ Advocacy Services of which we are a part and resource - play a crucial role in homelessness prevention by consistent, successful negotiation and advocacy to protect renters from being made homeless.

The committee started today by hearing the experience of people affected by the crisis. We particularly commend the committee for starting the day this way. We shared several stories in our submission as well and thank the renters and advocates who contributed. 

Simply, what needs to change?

There are a number of quite straightforward, simple interventions that would address the inseparable housing and homelessness crises we confront. These interventions are not fancy, nor particularly complicated. They simply require the political will to implement.

  1. Genuinely affordable housing is needed. Our submission highlights the urgent need for significant investment in public and community housing by the NSW government.
  2. Equally urgent, is the need to reform NSW tenancy law to ensure greater stability and security for people who rent their homes. Eviction is a significant driver of homelessness, and causes adverse financial and other outcomes for households, whether older persons or otherwise. Improving security and stability for renting households significantly reduces homelessness. 
  3. And we need to provide adequate support - assistance, advice, advocacy - for older people who rent their homes to ensure they know their rights and are supported in asserting them.

We talk about how these could be achieved in our submission. I look forward to talking in further detail about solutions with you today.

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