Why so-called ‘affordable’ housing is leading to homelessness

By David Donaldson

Monday April 29, 2019

While there’s been plenty of media coverage the ups and downs of house prices, the cost of renting for Australia’s poorest has remained dire.

There are no rental properties considered affordable for a single person on Newstart or Youth Allowance payments in any major city or regional centre in Australia, according to a major annual report.

Anglicare Australia surveyed over 69,000 rental listings across Australia and found in its Rental Affordability Snapshot that there is a chronic shortage of affordable rentals.

Across the country, the report found 75 rentals that were affordable for a single parent with one child on Newstart, and 317 rentals were affordable for a single person on the Disability Support Pension.

“Affordable” housing is commonly defined as a place that does not cost more than 30% of the household budget for a person on a low income.

The Age Pension is Australia’s most generous welfare payment, but even here the numbers are bad. For a single person on the Age Pension, only 0.8% of properties are affordable. This rises to 3.2% for a couple.

For a single person on the minimum wage, only 2.2% of rental are affordable.

The group that fared best in Anglicare’s modelling is a couple with two children — one aged less than five, one aged less than 10 — who are on the minimum wage and receive family tax benefit A, who could afford 24% of rental properties.

“Housing in Australia is broken. Our figures show that affordability is down across the board,” said Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers.

“There is a huge shortage of secure, affordable rentals. That’s causing record levels of rental stress and even homelessness.

“And now we’re seeing older Australians are getting stuck in expensive and insecure rentals — at a time in their life when they need stability more than ever.”

Australia has a dire shortage of social housing, said Chambers, whether for people who have recently experienced homelessness, family violence, have a disability or simply can’t get a home in the private rental market.

“People on the lowest incomes are being squeezed out of the rental market. That’s why it’s urgent that we invest in social housing,” she said.

“Our social housing shortfall is massive. We need 300,000 new social properties across Australia.

“We’re calling on all parties to commit to ending this shortfall — and ensure that everyone has a place to call home.”

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