Survey Finds Only One House In Capital Cities Affordable For Single Person On Newstart

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A new survey by a top charity has revealed that during one weekend last month, just 10 homes in the entire country were available for lease at rates that wouldn’t create ‘rental stress’ for a single person living on the Newstart allowance while they look for work.

Only one of those homes was in a capital city – the rest were in regional areas.

Anglicare’s annual rental affordability snapshot surveyed over 65,000 properties on a weekend in April, finding options for low income earners and those reliant on government allowances are greatly lacking, especially in areas where the prospect of gaining employment is higher.

In a staggering finding, the survey reported there was just one property in any of the nation’s capital cities that would not cause a single person reliant on the Newstart allowance to experience ‘rental stress’.

Rental stress occurs when a tenant is forced to spend 30 per cent or more of their income on housing.

Anglicare Australia CEO Kasy Chambers told New Matilda the crisis in housing affordability was keeping people out of work, with those forced to spend up to 60 per cent of their income on housing unable to cover costs necessary to secure work including clothes, internet, transport, and hair cuts.

“Only one property in our capital cities, not one in each, but one in all capital cities, was affordable for someone on the dole,” Chambers said.

This number only increases to 10 when all of the 65,000 properties surveyed across the country, including in regional areas, are taken into account.

The Anglicare survey reported single people on government payments are also seriously disadvantaged in the housing market, with less than 1 per cent of the listed properties rated as suitable.

Families living on the minimum wage – the wealthiest group the report looks at – would have found just 17 per cent of the properties affordable.

Chambers said there had been an increase in the supply of housing in recent years but that welfare payments were falling behind rental costs.

While the Coalition government faced widespread anger when it attempted to tie the Pension rate to the Consumer Price Index in its last Budget (effectively lowering it), the Newstart and Rent Assistance payments are already tied to the Index.

Chambers said the rate had to be increased, echoing the ongoing calls of welfare and business groups.

In the wake of the Anglicare report, President of the National Welfare Rights Network Kate Beaumont said it was time for the Minister for Social Services, Scott Morrison to admit the “housing crisis” was “a national emergency”.

“Rent Assistance fails to keep up with rental costs. The consequences for individuals are dire: after rent, there is next to nothing left over for food, utilities or to look for work,” Beaumont said in a statement.

The Coalition recently renewed the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness for two years, but has wound down other major programs and cut funding to peak and advisory bodies.

“It is a complex area of policy and there is no simple fix, there needs be lots of things from different levels of government but we need to get started on it,” Chambers said.

Negative gearing is one major concern, with billions of revenue forgone and increased pressure on house prices resulting.

Chambers said negative gearing on conditions, for instance only allowing it for those investing in new developments, thereby easing demand for housing.

“It’s a public expense so let’s link it to a public good,” she said.

Rent assistance is the Commonwealth’s major spend in the area, but Chambers said it could be better targeted to reflect the different rental prices in different areas.

Last year’s Commission of Audit recommended the government move out of the housing area entirely, but boost rent assistance payments.

The Federation White Paper due later this year will examine the Commonwealth’s role in the area.

Chambers has argued against the Audit’s recommendation, and that the state you live in shouldn’t determine the assistance you get.

“We feel there is a very real role for leadership for the Commonwealth government in housing,” she said.

Max Chalmers

Max Chalmers is a former New Matilda journalist and editorial staff member. His main areas of interest are asylum seekers, higher education and politics.

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