Rental crisis worsens for low-income earners
29 April 2019 at 8:00 am
Australia’s rental affordability crisis is only getting worse, with new research revealing the number of affordable homes for people on welfare is dwindling.
Anglicare’s annual Rental Affordability Snapshot of 69,465 private rental listings across Australia found less than 0.5 per cent of properties were affordable for singles on the Disability Support Pension (DSP), while virtually no properties were affordable for a single person on Newstart.
Similarly for single people on Newstart, the number of affordable homes has fallen from 21 in 2017, to three last year, and only two in 2019.
Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers said these figures showed the nation’s rental crisis was getting worse.
“Housing in Australia is broken. Our figures show that affordability is down across the board,” Chambers said.
“There is a huge shortage of secure, affordable rentals. That’s causing record levels of rental stress and even homelessness.”
Looking back over the findings from the last decade of snapshots, Chambers said it was clear the private rental market had failed to provide affordable housing for Australians on low incomes.
She told Pro Bono News there was no evidence this would change.
“The prices of rents overall may go down, but the price of rents at the bottom end of the private market just keep going up,” she said.
“Government welfare payments aren’t keeping track with that. The other thing that we’ve seen over the 10 years is it’s become less affordable for people on the minimum wage.”
The snapshot examines all the properties listed for rent on realestate.com.au on a particular weekend and assesses whether each property is affordable and suitable for 14 types of households on low income.
When examining affordability, rent needs to be no more than 30 per cent of a household budget – a nationally accepted standard for rent not to cause financial stress.
Anglicare this year had a particular focus on older people, as the charity noticed more people were retiring into rentals.
Chambers said the age pension in Australia was based on the assumption that people owned their own homes, which meant older Australians renting could struggle.
This year’s snapshot found only 0.8 per cent of properties were suitable for a single person on the age pension, compared to 1.24 per cent of homes last year.
“If you’re not either living in a social rental or owning your own home you’re really in trouble, because if you retire at 65 you could need 20 to 25 years of stable rental accommodation,” she said.
“That’s a real issue we don’t think governments have seen coming yet. And it’s certainly going to be a big issue into the future.”
Anglicare Australia is part of the Everybody’s Home coalition, which is calling for governments to develop a national strategy to provide 500,000 social and affordable rental homes by 2030.
Chambers said solving the rental crisis required an immediate increase in social and affordable homes, adding both major parties needed to lift their game in this area.
But she noted it would take time for new houses to be built, which meant other changes were needed in the meantime.
“For those Australians who are in the private rental market long term, we would like to see some changes to the rental tenancy agreements to better balance the rights of tenants and landlords,” she said.
“So we don’t think there’s going to be a quick fix but we do need a strong commitment. That would at least give us some optimism that we were moving in the right direction.”