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Divorcees’ battle to keep family home

Media release

C156/08

Losing a partner either through divorce, separation or bereavement poses a serious threat to home ownership, particularly for women, a study funded by the federal government has shown.

Following a separation, there’s a common perception that ‘she’ keeps the house and ‘he’ moves on. Contrary to this belief, it’s actually women who fall out of home ownership more often than men.

One of the key findings from this new study by a team of researchers from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute found that rates of home ownership fell from 69 per cent to below 50 per cent two years following a divorce or separation.

Dr Mike Dockery, a housing expert at Curtin Business School and one of the principal authors of this study said that the contrast with intact couples is distinct and consequences are typically worse for women.

“The figures show that intact couples have a home ownership rate reaching almost 90 percent over a comparable timeframe of two years,”Dr Dockery said.

“Women are typically worse off as they tend to keep the children and a lot more income goes towards raising the kids, resulting in added financial stress. This often leads them to selling the family home and opting for the much more affordable rental market.

“Men are also more likely to re-partner making it easier to repurchase a house.”

The study shows that losing a partner has dramatic consequences for home buyers, renters and those in public housing. There was a particular focus on older Australians in private rental housing.

For example, the data found that 41 per cent of remaining tenants in private rental housing become eligible for Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) or receive more CRA following household dissolution.

“The people that miss out are those that are eligible for CRA before the separation and rates of CRA do not increase for existing recipients who continue to live in the same house,”Dr Dockery said.

“The two groups who are affected the most are women with children as they often keep the family home and widows because they suffer from the sudden fall in income.”

With divorce rates much higher than 20 years ago and increasing concern for older Australians and the housing cost burden following the loss of a partner, it is anticipated that there will be a growing Australian market for mortgage products tailored to suit the needs of the divorced.

Contacts: Monique Billstein; PR Coordinator; Curtin: 08 9266 3353; 0401 103 018; M.Billstein@curtin.edu.au

Note to Editor: For more information and a copy of the full report please visit http://www.ahuri.edu.au/publications/p30315/

Modified: 27 May 2008