On a recent visit to Christchurch I had the opportunity to look around the Christchurch Methodist Mission (CMM) Wesley Village in Papanui. The wonderful team at CMM offer a wide range of support for older people as well as families and children. One long-standing part of their work is providing rental housing for older people without assets. There are 26 bedsits and four one-bedroom apartments for older people, which is unusual among aged providers. Most retirement villages offer units and apartments on a license to occupy (LTO) basis but there is an increasing number of people reaching old age who cannot afford to buy LTO units and apartments so they must continue to rent.
CMM offers more than simply a place to live, it offers a sense of community to help overcome isolation, including regular outings organised by CMM staff. A residents committee at the village has helped initiate other projects like a community garden and installing a wireless internet network. The villagers have enjoyed spending time on this project, which has been a boon to their physical and mental wellbeing.
Research on Renting
Most rental housing for older people on low incomes in New Zealand is offered either by community housing providers like CMM or by council housing or Housing NZ. The challenge of an ageing population, growing inequality and reducing home ownership rates means that secure, good quality and affordable rental options are becoming more important still.
Research funding from the National Science Challenges is being applied to explore what will be needed to respond well to this change in our social structure. While around 80 percent of older people own their own homes now, that will change quickly. As researcher Kaye Saville-Smith says, “I don’t think people have really grasped that probably around half of older households in the future, 20 to 30 years’ time, are going to be in rental.” The Life When Renting project asks what does this “tenure revolution” mean and what will its impacts be? The project aims to work with older people and stakeholders in New Zealand’s diverse communities to identify ways to adapt well to this change as well as develop tools that will help improve opportunities for older people and lessen the negative impacts.