A pair of elderly men are battling soaring rents in their search for somewhere to live, after being told to vacate their homes in less than three months.
- Two men are desperately trying to find a home after being told to vacate their rentals
- The facility where they live says it needs their rooms to accommodate residents in need of high care
- An aged care advocate says older people are struggling to find rentals in popular tourist locations
Gary Buckingham and Donald Williams, who live at the Harbourside Haven Gardens Residential Aged Care Home at Shoal Bay, are among five men who have been told to vacate the facility by October 13.
The men are residential tenants and do not receive high care.
Mr Buckingham, 71, said he used a walking stick and mobility scooter to get around after suffering a workplace injury several decades ago.
He said he had been living at Harbourside Haven for six years and could not afford to live somewhere else.
“We’ve got nowhere to go … we’re just getting turfed out and now we’ve got to try and scrape money together for bonds,” Mr Buckingham said.
“We can’t afford to rent a flat or anything like that, $500 a week, you’ve got to be kidding.”
Mr Buckingham said he received about $1,200 a fortnight on the pension, meaning $500 a week in rent was not feasible.
“You’ve got to put money away for the electricity and to fill the fridge,” he said.
Figures from real estate appraiser PropTrack show the vacancy rate for the Port Stephens region was 1.83 per cent in June, with the overall median weekly rent $530.
Mr Williams, 81, has lived at Harbourside for a few months and in Shoal Bay for 35 years.
“I moved from a house up in Fingal Bay and I had to get rid of everything, now I have to start again,” he said.
“Stuff I got rid of, stuff I sold, stuff I gave away, I’m going to need all of that now to start more or less a new home.
“Where am I going to find the money for that?”
Rentals ‘no longer suitable’
Harbourside Haven is operated by not-for-profit organisation Port Stephens Veterans And Citizens Aged Care (PSVCAC).
It closed its aged care facility in Fingal Bay earlier this year citing staff shortages and financial strain.
The men are part of a historical tenancy arrangement, initially introduced with the Men of League Foundation about 15 years ago.
That arrangement gave members accommodation within a low-care hostel environment.
In a statement, PSVCAC said it planned to use the rooms to meet the increased demand from individuals requiring government-funded high-care services.
“We aim to effectively address the increasing number of people with complex high-care needs in the Port Stephens region,” it said.
“This move will play a vital role in enhancing the financial viability of PSVCAC, positioning us for greater stability in the future.”
PSVCAC said it was dedicated to supporting the tenants in finding suitable accommodation and that it was flexible in determining the final date for them to transition to new homes.
The two men have been offered accommodation at a nearby village, but at $660 a fortnight, plus additional up-front costs, they said they could not afford it.
Mr Buckingham said he could not access the accommodation due to a lack of footpaths for his mobility scooter.
Research commissioned by the Housing for the Aged Action Group found the number of older people in NSW who owned their own homes dropped by more than 4 per cent between 2011 and 2022.
It found the proportion of older people living in private rentals jumped by almost 3 per cent during that same period.
Housing for the Aged Action Group executive officer Fiona York said that was not the way things were up to 20 years ago.
“There was an assumption that if you were an older person you would own your own home,” she said.
“With the rising rents and lack of affordability generally, older people find it really hard to compete.”
Ms York said the issue was exacerbated in areas such as Shoal Bay, where there was a high elderly population mixing with tourists.
“We are hearing that there’s a lack of rental properties because of short-term stays like Airbnb,” Ms York said.
“Tourists tend to get priority over the populations that have been living there for a long time.”