Ten years ago, retired music teacher Gavin Pearce moved away from a long term relationship (and shared accommodation) and moved into a three bedroom private rental. Situated above a retail shop in Altona, in Melbourne’s inner western suburbs, the rent continued to increase year by year. The landlord needed to be pushed to do any maintenance on the property, and his health was increasingly a problem in negotiating the flight of stairs up to his apartment.
"In my last year of private rental, I was paying $200 per week which on a pension is pretty tricky," says Gavin, who is 72. "I realised I needed to make a change, and after getting a medical certificate I approached my local council for assistance. I was initially offered a high rise public housing but after one visit I knew it wasn’t for me."
Before long, Gavin was put in touch with Womens Housing Ltd who offered him a brand new one bedroom property in Altona Meadows which he moved into in 2010.
"There’s no comparison in the quality of living," he says. "The place was freshly built with a quiet little backyard and my own parking space, none of which I had before. Financially it’s taken a huge burden out of my life, and it has also removed the problem of walking up stairs. All the residents in this development are over 70 so there’s no noise or fuss and everyone keeps to themselves, so I find it a beautiful environment."
Gavin now contributes a set percentage of his pension which covers rent and maintenance and equates to about $70/week. His payment from Centrelink is a net amount, so he no longer needs to worry about paying the rent on time.
"The financial change means I no longer experience stress about bills coming in. I have enough money now where I can afford to subscribe to the Symphony and Opera seasons. I can also have a meal out occasionally if I want to, but don’t often do," he says.
Gavin still plays piano most days and is involved in the community choir as the pianist and as the conductor. There are 20 people in the choir, and they often perform at nursing homes and retirement villages.
"I would sum up my experience with community housing as saying that I’m genuinely experiencing peace of mind in my life now, and that’s a wonderful feeling."