On Monday, the Anglicare Rental Snapshot for 2019 was issued, which highlights the lived experience of looking for housing on a low income.
The snapshot focuses on the experiences of people on government income payments and people earning the minimum wage.
By analysing data provided by the REA group and rental listings on realestate.com.au, Anglicare Australia agencies aim to assess the affordability and suitability of rental housing for low-income households. These include those receiving Disability Support Pension, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment, Newstart and the Age Pension, or a combination of these income sources.
The report assesses “affordable” as renting being no more than 30 percent of a household budget and “suitable” as being appropriate for the number of people or the family type living at the property.
In this year’s snapshot, which surveyed over 69,485 private rental listings across the country over the weekend of 23 March 2019, it was found that there were no properties in any capital city were affordable for a single person on Youth Allowance or Newstart.
Further, there was just one property out of more than 69,000 that were affordable and suitable on the snapshot weekend for people receiving Youth Allowance and only two (in the Riverina and Orange regions) for a single person on Newstart allowance.
According to Anglicare, there are approximately 715,000 people on Newstart in Australia and more than 83,000 receiving Youth Allowance.
The data also found that 554 properties were affordable for a single person on the Age Pension, and that only 317 were affordable for a person on the Disability Support Pension.
Overall, just 2 per cent of rental properties were affordable for a single person working full-time on a minimum wage, and three out of four rental properties are out of the reach of a couple who both earn a minimum wage and have two young children.
Meanwhile, just 3.2 per cent of properties were found to be affordable for a couple on the Age Pension.
Speaking of the findings, Kasy Chambers, Anglicare Australia’s executive director, commented: “This is Anglicare Australia’s 10th Rental Affordability Snapshot. And after 10 years, it is clear that the Australian dream – a place to call home – has become a nightmare for many renters.”
She continued: “Australia is looking to the private rental market to provide housing for more and more people. As our governments walk away from social housing, more people must fend for themselves in a market that is out of control.
“With over 115,000 people homeless, we desperately need to increase the amount of social housing and put a roof over the head of every Australian. That is the central call of this year’s snapshot. If we wait another 10 years to act on these findings, we will be denying the benefits and security of a home to hundreds of thousands of Australians.”
Housing industry ‘monumentally messed up’
The findings have been met with outcry, with the Australian Greens stating that it shows that the housing system is “fundamentally broken” and “monumentally messed up”.
Senator Mehreen Faruqi, Australian Greens’ housing spokesperson, commented: “Housing in Australia is monumentally messed up and this latest report from Anglicare Australia further reinforces this. The near complete lack of rental places available to people living on Newstart or the Disability Support Pension across the country underlies the need for sweeping changes to boost affordable housing in Australia.
“The primary goal of a housing system should be to supply long-term secure homes to people, not unbridled profits for investors.
“Everyone has the right to a safe, secure and permanent home. We know the situation is getting worse. We need urgent intervention, coupled with significant financial resources and reform of the housing system, or more and more people will be without a home.”
The senator added that, should the political party gain power following the federal election on 18 May, the Greens would look to more than double the amount of social housing across Australia by building 500,000 “new ecologically sustainable and affordable homes”, with a net addition of 33,000 dwellings each year – funded by scrapping negative gearing and capital gains tax exemptions, as well as “redirecting part of the banking levy on major banks”.
As well as Senator Mehreen, several members of the housing industry have called for urgent action on affordable housing to be taken.
Everybody’s Home campaign spokesperson Kate Colvin said more than 800,000 Australian households are living in rental stress, with working families struggling to find homes in almost every part of the country.
“If people are working day in, day out and still can’t afford to rent a home and our age pensioners have nowhere safe and affordable to live, then our housing system is still clearly very broken,” Ms Colvin said.
“Anglicare’s snapshot shows that our private rental market is failing Australians of every generation, in every part of the country – from people with disability, to age pensioners to people just trying to keep a roof over their head while they look for work or get by on a minimum wage.
“At the same time, governments are investing less every year on social housing, which means that people struggling in the private rental market have nowhere else to go.
“We know how to fix the housing system, but we need all parties to make it a priority if they win on May 18.”
Everybody’s Home is now calling for 300,000 new social and Aboriginal housing properties and 200,000 low-cost rental properties (affordable housing) for low and middle-income earners.
“Every Australian has a right to a home that is secure and they can afford. We need bipartisan support to fix the broken housing system in Australia so that it works for everyone,” Ms Colvin said.
Likewise, the Community Housing Industry Association NSW (CHIA NSW) said the 2019 snapshot shows that despite lower house prices in parts of Sydney, many low-income renters are worse off than they were 12 months ago.
“After 10 years of the Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot, the private rental market is still failing hundreds of thousands of households in Sydney and across NSW,” CHIA NSW chair John McKenna said.
“Unfortunately, investment in social and affordable housing has fallen a long way behind rent increases and population growth, which means many households struggling in the private market have nowhere else to go.
“Waiting lists for social housing alone are up to a decade long in almost every part of Sydney and the Illawarra.
“We also know there’s a shortfall of almost 140,000 social housing properties across the state right now, and we’ll need more than 300,000 social and affordable homes by 2036 to close the current gap and keep up with population growth.”
However, he suggested that community housing providers across NSW could start meeting that demand with “the right planning reforms, financial support and a commitment from all levels of government”.
“We need more affordable rental options for households struggling everywhere in our state, particularly people with a disability, age pensioners, jobseekers and families struggling to keep a roof over their heads on a minimum wage,” Mr McKenna said.
“We really need the state government to develop a comprehensive housing strategy for the whole of NSW that spells out exactly when, where and how we can deliver the social and affordable housing our local communities need.”
Annie Kane is the editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business.
As well as writing about the Australian broking industry, the mortgage market, financial regulation, fintechs and the wider lending landscape – Annie is also the host of the Elite Broker and In Focus podcasts and The Adviser Live webcasts.