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Just seven rentals in Australia are affordable for a person on JobSeeker

28 April 2022 at 6:30 am
Wendy Williams
“Australia’s housing crisis has reached fever pitch”

Wendy Williams | 28 April 2022 at 6:30 am


Just seven rentals in Australia are affordable for a person on JobSeeker
28 April 2022 at 6:30 am

“Australia’s housing crisis has reached fever pitch”

There are just seven rentals across Australia – all share houses – that are affordable for a person on JobSeeker, new data shows.

The annual Rental Affordability Snapshot, released by Anglicare Australia on Thursday, surveyed 45,992 rental listings across Australia.

It found that there has been a major drop in rental listings with the national vacancy rate falling to record lows – halving from two per cent, to one per cent over the past year. 

This is putting even more pressure on renters on low incomes, who are forced to compete with people on higher incomes and more stable jobs for the scarce supply of new rental homes that become available.

For most people on a low income, rent needs to be no more than 30 per cent of a household budget for it not to cause financial stress. 

Based on this benchmark the research found:

  • 720 rentals (2 per cent) were affordable for a person earning a full-time minimum wage
  • 312 rentals (1 per cent) were affordable for a person on the Age Pension
  • 51 rentals (0 per cent) were affordable for a person on the Disability Support Pension
  • seven rentals (0 per cent), all share houses, were affordable for a person on JobSeeker
  • one share house (0 per cent) was affordable for a person on Youth Allowance.

Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers told Pro Bono News the situation was getting worse.

It really is telling the story that it’s desperation stakes out there,” Chambers said.

“Australia’s housing crisis has reached fever pitch. No part of the country has been spared. Rents are shooting up in towns and regions, and our cities have never been more expensive.”

The problem is all too real for John from Wollongong, who has been on JobSeeker on and off for the past two years.

Paying rent is his highest priority, but he is finding it tough on the JobSeeker payment.

“I get $580 a fortnight from Centrelink and $520 of that has to go towards my rent each fortnight, which leaves me with $60 to cover literally every other living expense. So food, meds, clothes, transport, everything,” John said.

“I can’t buy phone credit, I can’t pay my internet bill, I can’t buy money to put on my travel card. There’s just no way to stretch it to cover everything.”

The snapshot found there wasn’t a single affordable rental or share house for a person on the JobSeeker payment in Illawarra region.

‘Voters are desperate for action’

Given the backdrop to this year’s snapshot is the federal election, Anglicare Australia is calling on all parties and candidates to act on housing affordability. 

“We keep hearing that this election is about living costs, but housing is the biggest cost facing Australians,” Chambers said. 

“People on low incomes don’t stand a chance. Less than 2 per cent of rentals are affordable for a full-time worker on the minimum wage. For a person out of work, it’s 0 per cent.

“Voters are desperate for action. Instead, parties are promising more of the same. At best they are offering grants that overheat the market. At worst they ignore the problem, telling struggling renters to buy a house. That’s not good enough.”

Chambers said she believed the rental market was invisible to politicians.

“They might know lots of people who own second properties and are landlords, but they probably don’t know people who are on the other side of that,” she said.

“But I think maybe we’ve also got a historical hangover here where policymakers and politicians still perhaps think that rental housing is a transitory stage in people’s lives, a right of passage of your twenties, and it’s not any longer. 

“A third of Australians are living in private rental and many of those people are living there far longer, people are retiring in rental, people are living their whole lives in rental, so this isn’t a housing sector that we can afford to ignore.” 

The organisation is calling on whoever wins the election to raise JobSeeker and other payments above the poverty line. 

It also wants to see governments at every level work together to protect people from unfair rent increases, as well as a big boost to affordable housing. 

“Our shortfall is massive. We need 500,000 new social and affordable rentals across Australia,” Chambers said. 

“Incidentally all that is a great stimulus to local economies as well, because housing is needed in just about every region, that flows into the tradies pockets and back out into the local delis and garages and shops. 

“Investing in housing is the most powerful way to make the market more affordable, and boost regional communities doing it tough after the pandemic and floods.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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