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Rent 'crisis' punishing Aussie essential worker 'heroes': report

Healthcare workers, supermarket workers, homelessness
Many of Australia's essential workers are struggling to have enough money left over after paying rent, a new report has revealed. (Sources: Getty)

Many of Australia’s essential workers delivering crucial services during the pandemic are barely making enough to pay rent and cover the rest of their bills amid ever-climbing rent prices, new analysis has revealed.

A new report from homelessness advocate Everybody’s Home found that some of Australia’s essential workers would have to spend more than two thirds of their week’s pay to rent an apartment in certain areas of Sydney, Queensland and the ACT.

The basic hourly pay of disability and aged care workers, childcare workers, and those working in hospitality and supermarkets classified in level 1 or 2 range from $21.19 and $22.30.

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House and rent prices have skyrocketed during the pandemic. National house prices have grown by an eye-watering 16.1 per cent, the fastest rate of growth since 2004, while rent prices haven’t grown this quickly in 12 years.

Meanwhile, wages are barely growing – inching up a measly 0.6 per cent in the March quarter – and have been stagnant for years, well before the pandemic hit.

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Carers and service workers have been crucial in the pandemic, but are struggling to get by in Australia’s housing system, said Everybody’s Home spokesperson Kate Colvin.

“These pandemic heroes are being badly let down by the housing system and are often priced out of the communities they serve,” Colvin said.

Supermarket or aged care workers should not be expected to commute for 90 minutes to and from work, she added.

“These are the people who got us through the pandemic. We must find a way to let them live close to their work.”

Not only are rents becoming “eye-watering” in Australia’s capital cities, she added, but workers are also being priced out of Australia’s coastal and bush communities as well.

Regional Aussies priced out of their own community

With remote work becoming the norm for office-based workers during the pandemic, Australians have been relocating to regional areas where property and rent is cheaper.

But the greater demand from citydwellers has resulted in worser affordability outcomes for locals.

CoreLogic data showed that rent in regional areas have grown three times faster than rent in capital cities, while regional house price growth grows at double the pace of major cities.

“People with big city incomes are moving to the regions and totally warping the rental markets. It’s astonishing that a care or service worker simply could not afford a modest apartment in the overwhelming majority of our suburbs and regions,” Colvin said.

WATCH BELOW: 3 Facts about Australia’s Property Market

Colvin argued that social and affordable housing needed to be expanded to relieve pressure on Australia’s low- and middle-income workers.

A previous report from Everybody’s Home showed that the number for social housing households in Australia had fallen from 4.6 per cent to 4.2 per cent between 2014 and 2020.

A report from the University of New South Wales’ City Futures Research Centre from mid-June noted that Australia does not have a national strategy when it comes to housing, resulting in a ‘triple crisis’ that threatens to hamstring the economy.

“Policy makers grasp at different pieces of policy impacting housing, including tax policy, monetary policy, macro-prudential policy, housing, infrastructure, planning and other sector actions, but never grasp the whole system,” the report said.

Australia’s care and service workers should not be expected to compete for rental properties, Colvin said.

“Australia can do better.”

Suburbs where essential workers spend up to 66% of pay on rent

The latest Everybody’s Home report found 87 regions where essential or service workers would have to spend one- to two-thirds of their week’s wages on apartment rent.

The regions are spread all across the nation, with many of these areas constituting hotspot LGAs, such as western and south-western Sydney.

Here’s the full list of suburbs:

  • NSW: Upper North Shore, Sutherland Shire, Inner West, Hills District, North Coast St George, Central Coast, Wollongong, Hunter, Parramatta, South Coast, Western Sydney, Canterbury Bankstown, South Western Sydney, LIverpool, Blue Mountains, Central Tablelands

  • Victoria: Bayside, Melbourne City, Bellarine Peninsula, Eastern Melbourne, Mornington Peninsula, Inner East Melbourne, North West Melbourne, South East Melbourne, Melbourne North, South West Melbourne, Northern Victoria, Western Melbourne, Western Victoria, South Western Victoria, Gippsland

  • ACT: Weston Creek, Belconnen, Tuggeranong, Gungahlin, Woden Valley

  • Queensland:Gold Coast North, Gold Coast West, Gold Coast Main, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane CBD, East Brisbane, Gold Coast Hinterland, Inner Brisbane, South East Brisbane, West Brisbane, Southern Brisbane, Northern Brisbane, Cairns, Beenleigh Corridor, Queensland North Coast, Ipswich, Central Coast, Toowoomba

  • South Australia: Adelaide City, Eastern Adelaide, Western Adelaide, Southern Adelaide, Outer Adelaide, Northern Adelaide

  • WA: Northern WA, Perth City, North West Perth, South West Perth, South East Perth, North East Perth, South West WA, Goldfields Region,

  • Tasmania: Central Hobart, Launceston, East Coast, East Hobart, West Hobart, Burnie, West Coast

  • NT: Darwin

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