Anglicare in partnership with architecture firm GroupGSA is delivering a solution to the social isolation that many women feel in older age.
The partnership has delivered an affordable housing, social housing, and build-to-sell apartment mix in their new developments across three sites in Western Sydney.
Lisa-Maree Carrigan, director and principal of GroupGSA says that the success of this project is owed to human contact and community integration for occupants, with the social housing components designed specifically for women aged over 55 who are experiencing financial distress.
Women over 55 are the fastest-growing group to experience homelessness, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In 2021 there were about 5000 women over the age of 55 on the waiting list for social housing in NSW alone.
Around 405,000 women over 45 are considered at risk of housing affordability stress and homelessness, according to the At Risk policy report from Housing for the Aged Action Group (HAAG) and Social Ventures Australia.
It is important for these women to have strong community support.
“Anglicare are really strong on integration with the community,” Ms Carrigan said.
“The benefits [of a mixed social and affordable housing and built-to-sell development] are that [financially disadvantaged people] can knit into community, and not be segregated.
“A concentration of housing of this cohort can lead to isolation and a lack of opportunity, that you can avoid with mixed strata. [Mixed housing can provide] human-to-human contact and the opportunities of employment and education that come with it.”
Anglicare’s integrated social housing developments blend retirement with affordable housing. GroupGSA has completed seven projects for Anglicare in the past three years, including boutique housing for women in Botany, and mixed social and affordable housing in Corrimal.
Indigenous women 45 years and older are the greatest single social housing lead, as a result of financial insecurity, divorce, and domestic violence, the housing report said.
To achieve design specifications for older vulnerable women, the apartments are designed for comfortable and independent living catering for mobility issues, visual impairment, and wheelchair access. This is what Ms Carrigan referred to as the “diversity of comorbidities” for that cohort, or the occurrence of multiple health conditions that increase the level of care needed in design to reduce risks in the home.
Residents are provided with a minimum silver LHA mobility level, or higher. The LHA Silver Level focuses on the key structural and spatial elements that ensure future flexibility and adaptability of the home.
To promote interaction with the community, the developments include secure communal spaces residents can gather in.
“The units are open with light, direct and clear access to communal spaces which are safe and secure. Each building has a secure entry, which is really important,” Ms Carrigan said.
In terms of sustainability, the “whole design” is focused on sustainable design principles.
“We’re trying to promote passive cooling and heating to make sure energy, air conditioning and heating for thermal comfort isn’t required. The cost of heating and cooling is a real problem for financial security. So we’ve worked really hard for the thermal performance of the building, taking into account orientation, sun shading, louvres, cross ventilation, and sufficient wind movement.”
To further promote community interaction, the landscape design creates a strong communal outdoor space for residents. Each outdoor space has a different purpose, whether it be to provide natural cooling, the biophilic benefits of plants and greenery, or rooftop green spaces.
The social housing offers a mix of studios and one bed apartments, and the affordable housing and built-to-sell are one, two or three bedrooms.
Mount Druitt, Fairfield and Liverpool were chosen as social housing “hotspots” where the need is greatest.
All units in the Mount Druitt, Fairfield and Liverpool developments were sold prior to completion and the remaining stage two site in Minto has a “massive waiting list” for occupancy upon completion.