The Western Australian government is seeking public feedback on grants to help seniors downsize, better construction to improve universal design, low interest loans to steer rent toward seniors, and more investment in aboriginal housing and other issues.

Launching the government’s Senior Housing Strategy discussion paper, Western Australian housing minister Brendan Grylls and seniors minister Paul Miles have called for feedback with regard to the best way forward in order to enable Western Australians who live on low and moderate incomes to be able to sustain affordable and appropriate housing after they retire.

According to the paper, seniors throughout the state face a number of challenges with regard to their housing needs in retirement.

Whilst many would like to downsize, this can be difficult to achieve especially without moving suburb in light of a lack of housing diversity and smaller housing options, a dearth of affordable retirement options outside of ‘lifestyle’ villages on the outskirts of the city and current retirement options such as deferred management fee options being often regarded by seniors as ‘end points.’

Mobility issues are also problematic, as much of the current housing stock features non-level entrances, steps into showers and narrow doors and passages which restrict wheelchair and equipment access.

Finally, the paper said that with a substantial number of people approaching retirement living in rental accommodation or with a substantial balance remaining on their mortgage, assumptions about retirees owning their home outright before reaching retirement are being challenged.

Solutions for downsizing issue could include grants for those who downsize, requirements for seniors housing in local government housing plans, bridging finance and different sources of home ownership models, the paper suggested.

The government would also like to explore options to expand universal design practices and affordable housing options such as low interest loans for seniors, shared equity home loans for seniors and landlord incentives to rent to seniors.

Stressing that ‘last home-buyers’ were just as important as first home home-buyers, Grylls said collaboration was critical as many of the necessary changes and actions fell outside of the realm of government.

“We have met with seniors, the seniors housing sector, private industry and local government and what I am hearing is that seniors want to retire in the community they belong to, provided they are connected to services and transport,” he said.

“They want to downsize, but have difficulty finding suitable options that are affordable.  Some are open to shared living arrangements, provided the design of the house is right.  Seniors are a very diverse group with a broad range of housing needs – just like the rest of the population – so they need the choice and diversity in housing options to cater for those needs.”

Property Council WA executive director Lino Iacomella welcomed the recognition of the issue’s importance but stressed that actions are more important than words.

He says priorities which were included in the Council’s 2017 State election agenda included stamp duty grants for eligible seniors who downsize their housing needs, reform of the Retirement Village Act and the introduction of retirement living housing targets for local governments.

Submissions in response to the paper close on December 16.