‘We can’t live like this’

DOUBLE BLOW: Pelican’s Max and Elizabeth Bower say their funeral fund is ‘whittling away’, while efforts to find public housing are stymied by long waiting lists. Picture: Brodie OwenPELICAN couple Max and Elizabeth Bower have seen plenty in their combined 168 years, but they never thought they would see the day they’d fear dying because of its financial burden.
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The Bowershave resorted to dipping into their funeral fund as cost of living and housing affordability pressures continues its grip on Hunter families.

“We had about $64,000 in savings from a claim and it’s down to half now,” Mr Bower said.“It’s been slowly whittled away and it’s just going down and down and down.

“We’re biting into it all the time and in another 18 months of living here, it will be gone.

“I suppose we’ll have nothing to bury ourselves with.”

The Bowers blame the cost of rent and rising cost of livingincluding food expensesas leading to their financial woes.

Of the $550 a week they share in pension and compensation payments, the couple estimates more than two thirds is paid in rent.

“If you buy anything extra, it’s just another whack out of it. There’s no room to move,” Mrs Bower said.

“Max isn’t real good,I’ve had a couple of heart attacks …we’re not what you call 100 per cent fit.

“It’s pretty hard at the moment.”

The Bowers live frugally and have tried to make the switch to public housing to take away some rent pressure.

But even then they’ve fallen through the cracks.

Having waited for more than two years on the elderly persons “priority” public housing list, Mr Bower still sees no end in sight.

“There’s just nothing at all and they can’t offer us anything unless we move from this area,” he said.

Mrs Bower said “I know the housing position is bad”,but expected something to come up within a year at least.

“It’s a bit too much for us,” she said.“How much longer do you wait?”

Swansea MP Yasmin Catley said she was appalled to hear of the Bowers’ plight.

“They came into my office with their story and their struggle and it’s just sad to hear,” she said.“A lot of people raise financial stress and housingwith me –andmany of them are elderly.”

Labor’s housing spokeswoman, Tania Mihailuk, called on the government to immediately address the shortfall of public housing in NSW, which included halting the sale of government-owned properties which “go to investors”.

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