KIM Connolly knows homelessness is a bigger problem for ageing women than most realise, but hopes to open some doors for those who are doing it tough.
The Coffs Harbour local is looking to establish a village of tiny homes on the NSW Mid North Coast.
Her aim is to create a community of 15 very small houses, the majority of which would be occupied by older women. The plan is for 12 to be owner-occupied (two for couples and 10 for women over 55) and the remaining three as rentals.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 6866 women aged over 55 were classified as homeless in the 2016 Census, up from 5234 in 2011.
However, Kim said these statistics did not reveal the full extent of the problem because many women who were homeless or at risk of homelessness had not asked for help.
Those who lost jobs had to use up superannuation funds before going onto a waiting list for public housing and the average wait time on the Mid North Coast was 10-13 years because of a lack of one- and two-bedroom housing.
And Kim isn't alone in the concern.
The organisation's Rental Affordability Snapshot, which surveyed more than 69,000 rental listings across Australia, found only 3.2 per cent of private rental properties were affordable for a couple on the age pension, the lowest percentage in a snapshot since 2013
Less than 1 per cent of rentals were found to be affordable for single people on the pension.
A member of the group Business and Professional Women, Kim was a high school teacher for 26 years.
Through her association with the organisation she learned of the struggles many women faced. So in 2017 she decided to retire from teaching to focus on a solution.
"These were women who were saying 'here I am at this age and I'm staring down the barrel of homelessness'," she said.
So Kim founded Tiny Habitat Homes.
But while tiny homes are rapidly growing in popularity, are they appropriate for older women?
It's certainly something that has not escaped Kim, who realises accessibility is an issue as many tiny homes have elevated beds. It's something she is working on with a view to building homes with beds at ground level.
The village's first display home is now for sale. And once the village is completed, Kim is interested in expanding the project.
She is also interested in promoting the idea of using tiny homes as a means for older people to avoid selling their homes by earning money from rental income.
Kim encourages people to share their personal stories or to support the initiative on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #bigproblemtinysolution.
For more information, call 0405-790-215 or 0413-390-725, or click here.
Kim is not the first to suggest tiny homes as a solution to our housing problem.
Australia's first development application approved project for non-transportable tiny homes officially opened in Gosford on the NSW Central Coast in February.
The Racecourse Road development by the not-for-profit group Tiny Homes Foundation comprises four single-occupancy tiny homes and well as a common room.
The project prioritises housing for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and provides additional support and services as needed.
It aims to help tenants develop independent living skills so they can confidently transition to conventional housing.
The project is a collaboration between the Tiny Homes Foundation, Central Coast Council and Pacific Link Housing.
For more information, click here.
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