Vulnerable priced out of housing
A STUDY of properties available in southern country South Australia has found the private rental market is failing people on low incomes.
“Some people may have shelter or accommodation, but for many of the people on our nation’s lowest incomes there is sadly very little on the market in the Murraylands, Riverland and Limestone Coast that could be a place to call home,” ac.care chief executive officer Shane Maddocks said.
The country specialist homelessness agency founded in Mount Gambier has shared regional data in collaboration with Anglicare Australia’s national Rental Affordability Snapshot release today.
On the snapshot weekend of 19 March 2022, 55 private rentals were advertised for rent across the Limestone Coast, Riverland and Murraylands, with ac.care analysing whether each property is affordable and suitable for 14 types of households on low incomes.
“The key to making housing more affordable lies in two factors - making sure everyone has a decent income and providing enough affordable rentals for the people who need them,” Mr Maddocks said.
“It is clear we must invest in affordable housing and the shortfall of affordable rentals in our regions must be tackled.”
ac.care is calling for major parties to commit to an increase to the rate of JobSeeker and other payments in the lead-up to the federal election.
“This will help people on the lowest incomes find a secure home,” Mr Maddocks said.
ac.care has also joined the sector-wide campaign calling for more support to renters and development of a sustainable plan to tackle homelessness.
“Nobody should be forced to make impossible sacrifices just to keep a roof over their head,” Mr Maddocks said.
“It’s time to take real action and make sure that everyone can have place to call home.”
The study showed that in the Limestone Coast, Riverland and Murraylands, as is the case across Australia, renters on low incomes are being priced out of the rental market.
People on income support, especially those who are out of work, have few options, with no rentals, including sharehouses, affordable for a single person on the JobSeeker payment.
“The shortage of affordable rentals will condemn people to make difficult decisions to keep a roof over their head,” Mr Maddocks said.
Families out of work are also facing a dire situation.
An out-of-work couple with two children could afford only 15pc of rentals, but competed with people on higher incomes for these scarce properties.
Single parents out of work face even tougher odds, with affordability at just five percent.
“This helps explain why the rate of JobSeeker is such a critical factor in child poverty – one in six Australian children now lives in povertyii, with those growing up in households that depend on JobSeeker at much greater risk,” Mr Maddocks said.
The snapshot data also shows how tough the regional rental market is for young people.
A person on Youth Allowance looking for a sharehouse cannot afford any of the available rentals in the southern country South Australia regions.
“Youth Allowance is the lowest of all government payments and year after year we find young people are at the bottom of the affordability ladder,” Mr Maddocks said.
Meanwhile, people with disabilities faced unique challenges in the market, with individuals receiving the Disability Support Pension only able to afford seven per cent of rentals.
“Some will find that the rentals listed in our snapshot do not meet their needs and for many people the Disability Support Pension is too low to allow them to rent a home that does,” Mr Maddocks said.
A couple living on the age pension could only afford 20pc of rentals, while single retirees had it even worse, with seven percent of listings left to compete for.
Working people are hardly better off.
A single person working full-time on the minimum wage will find only 13pc of rentals are affordable. Of all the households featured in the latest snapshot, families with two parents in full-time work had the best chance of finding an affordable home, but even they were priced out of 40pc of rentals surveyed.
But Mr Maddocks said the rental affordability snapshot did not tell the whole story.
“Although we assessed properties based on the full-time minimum wage, we know more and more people are working casually,” Mr Maddocks said.
“Their plight is likely to be much worse than this snapshot shows.”
He said the snapshot also did not take into account competition for each of the properties with dozens of applications commonly being submitted for affordable rentals in the regions and the most vulnerable left demoralised by constant knockbacks from housing applications.
“All of this is a wake-up call,” Mr Maddocks said.
“The latest data and what our frontline workers are seeing at our homelessness services across southern country South Australia is affordable homes are simply not available for people on low incomes - it is past time for action to make housing more affordable as a national priority.”