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LETTER: Time to abolish 55-plus age-restricted buildings

All ages and demographics are feeling the strain of the housing shortage, yet our governments continue to allow age-based discrimination by allowing buildings reserved for only those who are 55-plus.

Legally, age restrictions are only allowed in strata buildings and not rental buildings, however, it still applies to units rented out by the owners, in which case they are still allowed to restrict the rental to 55-plus. It’s a loophole that allows renter discrimination even though technically you’re not allowed to restrict rentals based on age.

The human rights code says: “Bylaws that restrict occupancy based on age or family status are unenforceable against renters unless the entire development is limited to persons 55 years and older.”

If we are talking about true seniors housing, we should be talking about a 65-plus community that also provides care and senior-specific activities, not just a stand-alone building.

Which brings me to my point. Why are regular strata buildings allowed to blatantly discriminate based on age? Why does the human rights code allow a segment of the population to gate-keep such a precious commodity in the middle of a dire housing crisis? There is no reason these 55-plus buildings shouldn’t be accessible to everyone.

Times are changing. There are more younger people and families in Victoria than when these buildings went up and we all deserve equal access to them. Discrimination of this magnitude would not fly in any other aspect of society. It is not enough to say moving forward, this sort of age-based discrimination will not be allowed in new strata buildings. Buildings discriminating based on age can and should change immediately. What if buildings that were built during segregation declared “whites only”? Would we say, OK moving forward you can’t discriminate based on race but we will let the ones who are already doing it to continue? No.

Age-based discrimination is discrimination and it is time for our government to get on board with housing equality and stop allowing old white privilege to run the show.

Amy White

Victoria