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Community Groups Warn of Rental Affordability Catastrophe in NSW


11 January 2019 at 3:50 pm
Luke Michael
New South Wales faces a looming catastrophe in rental affordability unless drastic action is taken to address a huge social housing shortfall, community groups have warned on the back of new research showing unaffordable rent spreading beyond the inner-city.


Luke Michael | 11 January 2019 at 3:50 pm


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Community Groups Warn of Rental Affordability Catastrophe in NSW
11 January 2019 at 3:50 pm

New South Wales faces a looming catastrophe in rental affordability unless drastic action is taken to address a huge social housing shortfall, community groups have warned on the back of new research showing unaffordable rent spreading beyond the inner-city.   

UNSW researchers found that western Sydney accounted for four of the top five federal electorates for rental stress – defined as paying more than 30 per cent of their income towards rent.

Fowler in south-western Sydney came out on top of the rankings for NSW, with 44 per cent of the 18,612 rental households experiencing rental stress.

With western Sydney and the NSW north coast dominating the 20 top electorates for rental stress, Kate Colvin from Everybody’s Home – which commissioned the research – said the analysis showed that housing affordability was not an inner-city issue.

“This new data shows it is being experienced most acutely by ordinary working Australians in electorates in western sydney and regional NSW,” Colvin said.

“In Fowler, rents increased by nearly 30 per cent between 2011 and 2016 and incomes for the lowest income household increased by just five per cent. It means a growing number of people… are often doing without meals and other essential items.”

Top 20 top electorates for rental stress in NSW.

Shelter NSW CEO Karen Walsh told Pro Bono News the state faced a looming catastrophe in rental affordability, as people on low incomes were forced to compete in the expensive private rental market.

“More lower income and moderate income people are forced to move further away from the inner-city in order to secure affordable housing,” Walsh said.

“But the reality is that because of population growth in places like western Sydney, people are still having to pay unaffordable rents because of an ongoing lack of social housing supply.”

UNSW’s research supports findings from the recent Rental Affordability Index, which showed rental stress was at crisis levels for low-income families in Australia.  

Walsh said rental stress was also having a massive impact on homelessness, with people struggling to pay their rent from week-to-week.   

In south-western Sydney, homelessness has increased by 61 per cent over the past five years.

“A lot of the jobs that people have are not located in western Sydney, they’re close to the city. So these households have to pay additional travel costs on motorways or public transport,” Walsh said.

“In social housing if your income fluctuates, the amount of rent that you pay will fluctuate in accordance with your income. In the private rental market there’s no safety net. You have to pay the rent when it’s due.”

Two months out from the NSW election, Shelter NSW is calling for the state government to immediately commit to increase the supply of social housing by at least 5,000 homes a year for the next 10 years.

Walsh said for every year of inaction, NSW lost the equivalent of 2,500 social housing properties by falling behind population growth.

She said the government needed to make a long-term capital investment in social and affordable housing so future generations could live securely with a roof over their heads.  

“We want a whole-of-government approach that sees affordable housing as social and economic infrastructure, not as an add-on welfare response that often plays second fiddle to other policy responses.”

On a federal level, Everybody’s Home has renewed their calls for a national housing strategy to overcome a shortfall of 500,000 social and affordable houses, and for Commonwealth Rent Assistance to be increased to provide immediate relief for renters in chronic rental stress.

In December, Labor leader Bill Shorten made a 2019 federal election commitment of 250,000 affordable rental properties over ten years, while the Morrison government said it would spend $7 billion on delivering affordable homes through the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement.


Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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