Seven steps to affordable housing

Last updated on 26 September 2023

It might be wise to use Government funded support systems to your benefit. After all, the cost of living is a merciless and monstrous burden which you can plan to address. [Image via iStock]

Key points:

  • Retirees should be aware of the National Disability Insurance Scheme [NDIS] cut-off at age 65, as people with disability may have fewer supports for conditions which require expenses
  • The Age Pension is often inadequate for frivolous or comfortable living, as many older Aussies have expressed a need to return to the workforce due to financial instability
  • The price of housing, cost of living and household maintenance expenses are gradually pricing retirees out of affordable accommodation, so consider your existing arrangements prior to retirement — such as active rent contracts

With the 2022 – 2023 End of Financial Year [EOFY] over and ’23 – ’24 on the horizon, Australians are looking ahead at the future of their financial planning. This edition of Your Retirement Living shows retirees how they can make the most of assisted living payments to budget strategically.

Pick up that phone and start calling, ask financial advisers and Government departments about your eligibility for the six steps towards affordable housing listed in this article. Financial advisers are reputable and qualified to help you manage incoming and outgoing cashflow to live comfortably as a retiree.

Age Pension

The Age Pension is an income support payment from the Federal Government for people who have reached the age of 65, 66 or 67 and over — depending on the year of birth. People who meet the age requirement must also have income and/or assets that are under the applicable limits, and meet all residency requirements.

You can receive the age pension straight away after you turn the respective age and you retire, however, one may start accepting it after their superannuation is under the applicable income and asset limits.

The maximum basic rate for the Age Pension (as of July 1, 2023) is $971.50 for a single person or $1,464.60 for a couple [combined].

If you own a home, that can impact how much pension you can receive. You will be subject to an assets test to determine how much the Government will pay you. You can receive the full pension if your assets are not more than the current asset test limit, which is up to $301,750 for a single person or up to $451,500 for a couple [combined] (as of July 7, 2023).

If you aren’t a homeowner, you can receive the full pension up to $543,750 in assets as a single person or up to $693,500 in assets as a couple combined.

If you continue working past the Age Pension age, you may be eligible for a partial Age Pension.

You can claim the Age Pension through Services Australia, however, Centrelink administers the payment. Call the Centrelink Older Australians line on 13 23 00 to see if you are eligible or for more information.

Pensioner Concession Card

Receiving the Age Pension will automatically qualify you for the Pensioner Concession Card.

The Concession Card provides discounts on medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), utilities, council rates, and more.

This could mean cheaper medication, having your doctor visits bulk billed, bigger refunds for medical costs, and lower rates on household necessities including public transport, motor vehicle registration, and property and water rates.

Additionally, each State and Territory may have different benefits for Concession Card holders.

If you are eligible, you do not need to apply for the Pensioner Concession Card, Centrelink will automatically mail you your card.

For more information about the Pensioner Concession Card, visit the Services Australia website.

Commonwealth Senior Health Care Card

The Commonwealth Senior Health Care Card is similar to the Pensioner Concession Card, however, it is for people that are not eligible for an income payment but have reached the Age Pension age.

You may not be eligible for the Age Pension because of assets exceeding the allowable limits or don’t meet the minimum residency requirements.

Seniors can receive this card if their adjusted annual taxable income (as of July 18, 2023) is below $90,000 for singles or $144,000 for couples.

This card is to provide some financial assistance through cheaper health care and some discounts. For example, medication may be cheaper, you can bulk bill doctors visits, and have refunds on your medical costs, or can have lower electricity, gas, property, water and public transport fees.

To learn more about the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, head to the Services Australia website.

Pension Loans Scheme

If you own property in Australia, you could be eligible for the Pension Loans Scheme.

The Pension Loans Scheme is a non-taxable loan provided each fortnight that is designed to boost your retirement income by up to 1.5 times the maximum of your pension.

This loan does need to be repaid with interest to the Government, and paying back the loan can be done at any time. However, the longer you leave repaying the loan, the more interest you will pay. The current yearly interest rate for the loan is 4.5 percent.

For more information, visit the Services Australia Centrelink website or to learn how to apply for the loan.

Energy Supplement

The Energy Supplement assists pensioners, income support recipients and Seniors Health Card holders with financial support to pay for household energy expenses.

It is a fortnightly payment with your regular income support payment, or you can elect to receive the payment quarterly.

You can receive the Energy Supplement if you are receiving a form of income support from Centrelink.

There is no application process for the supplement, if you are eligible, Centrelink will include it with your regular pension.

How much you receive depends on your circumstances. For example, if you are single on the Age Pension or Carer Payment, you could receive $14.10 a fortnight (as per July 7, 2023).

To find out more, head to the Centrelink website.

Rent Assistance

The Rent Assistance payment is a non-taxable supplement for eligible people who live in rentals, like the private rental market or community housing, and need assistance paying for their accommodation.

You can be eligible for Rent Assistance if you are receiving the Age Pension, Carer Pension or Disability Support Allowance, and pay rent at your current home.

Paying rent can be considered either rent fees, retirement village fees, lodging and board fees, or site or mooring fees if you live in a caravan, moveable home or boat.

You have to pay a certain amount in rent to be able to receive Rent Assistance, currently it sits at a minimum of $157.20 a fortnight for a single person (as per May 11, 2023).

To apply for Rent Assistance head to the Centrelink website

Have you done research into the entitlements you might be eligible for? Tell us in the comments below.