Rent Assistance Recipients Suffer ‘Housing Stress’ - Report
31 March 2014 at 9:13 am
The National Welfare Rights Network says its latest research shows that the Federal Government’s Rent Assistance scheme is failing the people who need it the most.
NWRN recently released its report on the impact and effectiveness of the Rent Assistance scheme, which provided assistance to 1,267,979 people at June 2013, with a fifth of recipients on the Disability Support Pension, 21 per cent on Newstart and 17.5 per cent receiving the Age Pension.
Key findings included people on lower allowance payments were more likely to be in “severe housing stress”, with a quarter of unemployed people on Newstart are paying more than 50 per cent of income in rent and the effectiveness of Rent Assistance was being reduced as it failed to keep pace with increases in rent.
“Over 502,000 Australians who receive Rent Assistance are in ‘housing stress’ and paying over 30 per cent of their income on rent. That’s 40 per cent of those who receive this payment,” NWRN President Maree O’Halloran said.
“Rent Assistance is an essential program, and it reduces the number of people in rental stress from 67 per cent to just 40 per cent. However, it is failing the very people who need it most. In June 2013, 164,835 households, or 13.1 per cent of all Rent Assistance recipients were in ‘severe housing stress’, paying more than 50 per cent of their income in rent.
“Of these households, 38 per cent, or 63,606 were on the below poverty level Newstart Allowance.
“The proportion of pension recipients in severe housing stress was much smaller, with 6.2 per cent of all Disability Support Pension recipients, 6 per cent of Age Pensioners, 5.8 per cent of Carer Payment recipients and 6 per cent of those receiving Parenting Payment (Single) paying over half of their weekly income on rent.”
O’Halloran said another key finding was that the “sharers” rule, which reduces rates of Rent Assistance by a third affects 1-in-7 receiving Rent Assistance, was having an increasingly adverse financial impact on many people living on very low incomes, with an increase in people affected by the rule by 8.4 per cent , or over 15,400 in just 9 months.
“Government action is urgently needed to lift people out of housing stress,” she said.
“Increasing the rate of Rent Assistance by 30 per cent, indexing the payment to rental increases, and raising social security payments for single unemployed people and students would lift tens of thousands of people out of housing-related poverty.”
A copy of The impact of Rent Assistance on housing affordability for low income renters: Australia can be found at:www.welfarerights.org.au