Growing numbers of Kiwis risk becoming homeless in old age because of falling home ownership rates, rising rents and static housing subsidies, the Salvation Army says.
Homeless Baby Boomers, a hard-hitting report by the army's social policy unit, says superannuitants in private rentals will jump almost four-fold from 61,000 in 2013 to 237,000 by 2030, as those owning their own homes drop from 73 per cent of the age group to 63 per cent.
It says rents have risen 4 per cent a year over the past five years, while the accommodation supplement has not changed since 2007, making it harder for many elderly renters to survive.
"Australian housing researchers are reporting increasing incidents of what they term first-time homelessness amongst people in their later middle age or early retirement years," it says.
"These are people who have held down jobs and led fairly conventional lives until an event such as a relationship breakdown, redundancy, injury or a health setback means that they lose their housing and perhaps their income. They become street homeless and destitute."
The report shatters the complacent air of other official statistics showing that the elderly have the country's lowest poverty rate, mainly because of their relatively high home ownership rate.
It shows that it is not just young people who are now struggling to buy a house. So are baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1965.
"Ownership rates between 2001 and 2013 have fallen for all age cohorts," the report says. "Even under very optimistic assumptions of rapidly improving home ownership levels amongst younger baby boomers during the last 10 to 15 years of their working lives, they will still retire with significantly lower ownership rates than their parents."
It says older people are moving out of high-rent cities to cheaper regions. But it says the elderly exodus from the cities will soon swamp the regions' smaller housing markets, pushing rents higher in those places.
Report author Alan Johnson says the accommodation supplement should be reviewed and possibly replaced by the pre-1991 system of subsidising local councils to build pensioner housing.
He recommends letting councils claim income-related rent subsidies which are now paid only to Housing NZ and community providers, "engaging" councils in the regions with the need to cope with an elderly influx from the cities, raising budgets for aged residential care and building more pensioner housing.
Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford agreed that councils should get income-related rent subsidies and "reinvent pensioner housing".
Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said she was "focused on increasing the supply of social housing", but extending the rent subsidy to councils "does not house a single more person or family".
But she added: "As supply grows, we may be able to revisit the [policy]."